Category Archives: Life

Everyone Should Have A Guaranteed Basic Income for Life

I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing for a while, ever since i first came across the notion who knows when. In fact, i always wondered, even as a child, why this was considered so impossible and the answer given was that “people would become lazy…” to which i had not enough life experience to respond adequately or knowledgeably. Now, however, my own life has given my a tiny hint of whether that answer was correct or not. And my answer comes from a life in which i was provided, by virtue of being “on disability” for decades, a poverty-level income, plus shelter and varying levels of food support. I did not become lazy at all. In contrast, as soon as my life stabilized when i no longer was in constant search for housing and had enough to eat for “the forseeable future” at any given time, i could settle down into my life of low but livable income and i taught myself to write poetry. This was a goal that i could accomplish given that it required very little extras in the way of expenditures, beyond a pen and a notebook and eventually an electric tyoewriter, paper, and a few envelopes and stamps. For 25 years i lived and breathed only to read and write poetry, and became an accomplished poet, with hundreds of poems under my belt.

The one thing that my stable if low income did not do was make me lazy, it did deprive me of many other things, but the basic “security” it provided to me of shelter and food and medical care, however basic level they were, permitted me the freedom at least to write my heart out.

Later, when my income doubled due to a a tragedy in the family that had a positive effect on my social security benefit, once again freedom from penury permitted me to become an artist, because i could buy the art supplies that before that time i could never have afforded.

The point is that people will always do what they do, and want to do, when the chains of utter compulsion are taken off. There is plenty of money in this world, enough to fund a system that takes care of all, if we have heart and soul to do this. The question is, Do we dare?



Tidal Wave ATC (Artist Trading Card)
Tidal Wave ATC (Artist Trading Card)


Lori Carlson over at her WordPress blog, one of several, AS THE FATES WOULD HAVE IT, wrote this lovely passage about why she has to write:

“I enjoy reading poetry and prose that inspires me, that wrenches at my heart, and that puts me in the grip of Knowing — that silent moment when what someone else has written rings so true with you, that you are in complete awe. That is the way I write, or at the very least, I strive to write that way. And so I have made it my life’s goal to write poetry and short fiction, to give back to others the passion that fuels my soul.”


My response to Lori was this: “Passion pushes life to its purest pitch. A passionate enthusiasm is not pathological, as some might have us believe when we are caught up in its grip…Never believe them. Without passion, poetry is just a dim simulacrum of itself, veiled but without mystery, deaf not just to the world but to itself as well.”


Best wishes, Lori, and every one of you writers out there who might have been told to “cool it” or to stop dreaming and “get real.” Best wishes for all the dreams and all the passion your life can encompass, brim over with and then more! more! YES! MORE!

Photos of Vermont Cottage, and of the Artist, Herself

I thought I would post a few pictures of where I have been living these past few weeks, both how it was this past summer and what it looks like now. And me, too. Since most of you likely have no idea what I look like unless you have read DIVIDED MINDS and of course those photos, the most recent in them, was the author photo taken some ten years ago in 2004.

Carriage House Kitchen area summer 2014
Carriage House Kitchen area summer 2014

summer 2014

Dining/arts area of carriage house Summer 2014
Dining/arts area of carriage house Summer 2014

The above photo is the cottage kitchen area and dining/arts area as they were this summer, before I brought all my stuff up here. It was much less cluttered then and lighter! Below photo is the dining and “arts” area where Lydia and I did our artwork and where most of Dr Geuss was made…

The next photo is from the summer, me holding the brown paper beginnings of Dr Geuss (actually this was when Lucy Goosey was rather far along…(trust me! ) Nevertheless if you look hard enough you will see that I am just holding the wings on — I have not yet figured out how to secure them.

Pam with Lucy Goose  (Dr Geuss-to-be)
Pam with Lucy Goose (Dr Geuss-to-be)

As it turned out what I decided to do was to drill a hole through each wing, after Lydia and I painted them, a hole right through a painted dot, then a hole into the body (I think we decided to drill maybe three holes per side about a quarter inch in diameter. ) I sawed chopsticks from supper the night before into little dowel pieces maybe 2 inches long, then I pushed the chopstick dowels into these holes, along with glue, thereby attaching the wings permanently to the body. I thought it was a rather ingenious if not elegant solution to the problem, especially as glue and papier mache solution itself was not going to hold them in the position I wanted.

The only other way I had solved this sort of problem before had been in the out-held arm of Dr John Jumoke. Then I just “smooshed” and actually used Plaster of Paris, which I would not do again. Gypsum (P of P) would just have added weight to the held out wings of the goose, which would not have been good, nor for a sculpture that by its very nature needed to be easy to move.

Anyhow when I was done, I was very pleased when I offered it, through Cyndi my therapist to the Human Services Department in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (St Johnsbury) and they were nice enough to accept it.

This was not a given. Hartford’s Children’s Hospital had refused two sculptures on the pretext that they were a “fire hazard” even though for the two days they were on display there apparently they were wildly popular.

Pam with Dr Geuss in NEK Human Services Dept -- Children's Area

Well to finish out this saga, the photo of me with Dr GEuss above is in the children’s department where it started out, but apparently the kids wanted to “ride” it so instead my therapist there who is artistic herself made a lovely table for it, and they put it out in the front reception area for everyone to see. I was thrilled to see this when I came back and first arrived there for an appointment from The Care Bed.

Mt Harmony Farm Carriage House 2014 Summer
Mt Harmony Farm Carriage House 2014 Summer

The building (above) is the carriage house (or cottage) I live in, as it was last summer. The sooty part of the wall is from the pellet stove, which I am using now in the winter with great satisfaction. But even though it was nearly 0°F last night I still prefer to bundle up in clothing than to use a lot of pellets or keep the house too warm and get a headache! So I keep the stove at “1” rarely even a “2” and have not yet even turned on the upstairs electric heat…On the left, behind the bent door, is the “garage” where the farm and snow clearing equipment are kept…

This next photo is one I snapped not at all by accident of the white donkey, who looked to me just like a unicorn peering from behind the trees! I love this picture because it captures the magic of the past summer and why I fell in love with the NEK and Sheffield and this farm and its owners, Marc and Steffi, and VERMONT!!!!

Unicorn Heres loooking at you

I can’t recall if I posted these next few on Wagblog or only on FB but here is the farm after our first snowfall a week ago (actually it was not at all our first at all, only the first big one I was present for). We had a foot of snow at Thanksgiving again and more last night on top of this apparently unnamed “mountain”!

Snow in November at Mt Harmony Farm!
Snow in November at Mt Harmony Farm!
Mt Harmony Sheep in Snow November 2014
Mt Harmony Sheep in Snow November 2014
Farmhouse and sunrise on snow in Vermont 2014
Farmhouse and sunrise on snow in Vermont 2014

Finally a few photos of Wag herself in her new Vermont digs, doing her “thang.”

Pam at table drawing a small sketch before she starts painting

Pam Wagner Nov, 2104


Pam dressed to the nines and pretending to paint for the camera…In reality I never change out of my grungy gray tee shirt and jeans, and would never paint in such good clothing!

The Artist, dressed to nines and pretending to paint for the camera!
The Artist, dressed to nines and pretending to paint for the camera!
Pam Wagner with new 6" square oil painting based on Don Miguel Ruiz book, THE FIFTH AGREEMENT
Pam Wagner with new 6″ square oil painting based on Don Miguel Ruiz book, THE FIFTH AGREEMENT

Pam displaying results of her oil painting adventures, a picture based on a a very short book that means more to her than almost any other, THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz and his newest, written with his son, THE FIFTH AGREEMENT…

Painting is “Sometimes a Dreamer has a New Dream”

In Recliner, reading about artist, Alice Neel
In Recliner, reading about artist, Alice Neel

Above is Pam in recliner in Vermont cottage, reading about one of her favorites artists, Alice Neel…

Pam, drawing in  recliner
Pam, drawing in recl

Drawing in recliner

Cooking up a storm with T=day leftovers, nov 2014
Cooking up a storm with T=day leftovers, nov 2014

(Above) Kitchen area in winter time….Pam W cooking, late at night in November, 2014

You can see that since I came back from the summer it has gotten a lot more crowded….I brought as much as I could pack into a 14 foot truck and gave everything else away. Which was a lot. I donated ALL my furniture to FreeCyclers, including my bed and my recliner. ALL my books went to a teacher at the Cheshire Correctional Institute or their library, except a few precious ones, including the Alice Neel volume. And most of my other items except for art supplies and art work, and cold weather clothing and a few expensive items I knew I would not want to have to purchase anew. But most of my things had been bought at thrift store to begin with and many years ago to boot, so it would have cost more to lug them with me to Vermont than to buy them again, used, once I got settled there.

All the furniture that you see was there when I got here and belongs to the owners, Marc and Steffi. Of all that you see, only the artwork on the walls, and the easel, and the white floor three-bulb lamp are mine…

Frankly I would love to “downsize” even more than this, but do not know how (except for clothing, which is all used and while I like what I have I NEVER wear it)…I have used nearly everything I brought with me, and if I have not, it is only because Marc and Steffi have something here. However, when I go somewhere else, which may NOT be fully furnished, I know I will be glad that I did not toss everything in a fit of pique with “stuff”.

Sorry about this mundane post. I needed to make these photos for my mom, who is experiencing dementia and may not even quite know where I am. I did make taped phone calls that go out to her every night at the same time, telling her that I love her and am moving to Vermont, but I have not been able to contact her “in person” otherwise, since I cannot call her and she is no longer able to do email . So I will write her a letter and enclose these photos. I figured why not also show them to my readers…(and I hope not bore them to tears at the same time!!!




30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself. From Bucket list Publications by Marcandangnel…words to live by. I loved these and while i rarely reblog someone else’s page or simply link to them. These 30 sugggestions were so simple and cogent i simply had to. Way to go marc and angel!

more later but for now i am on the train home from north carolina ans trying to write more on my. november novel. TTFN. Love you all!



Too Many Anniversaries and Too Many Memories

Eemie on Bed

One of the anniversaries is my little Eemie’s death last year, at age 17. She was only about 14 in this picture, maybe a bit younger. But she never looked much different from this. Even the day she was “put to sleep” the vet thought she was a very sick 5 year old and not the elderly kitty she really was…She was my all time favorite cat, but i won’t try to replace her, or get another. I cannot do it, and will not try…

Pam and Joe 06 at Lahey

This  photo is of Joe Cornelio and me in 2006, just after he was diagnosed with ALS,  Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which would finally kill him, or complications thereof, two years ago today. I stil miss him dearly.

ERICA Screen that Joe sees

At the height of Joe’s illness, when he was completely paralyzed except for his eyes, and could not speak or move, he was able to use an eye gaze computer known as ERICA to speak with. ERICA registered the glint in his eye and allowed him to spell out each word by looking at the letters of the alphabet, which you can see on the screen in the photo, and then he could ask the computer to speak what he spelled by looking at the “speak” function. It was laborious, yes, but it worked well enough that we could actually have skpye converations by phone when I could not get in to see him in person, and I would set up my computer by my paintings and do some artwork by “videophone” so that he could watch me work while we talked.

Joe using ERIKA

This is  Joe — weird how I never saw the changes in him in life but always saw him as “my old Joe” except in these photos — using the ERICA.

Pam and Joe in HFSC smiling

Pam and Joe, smiling at one another…


The other anniversary of this month is that three years ago, I was sadistically restrained (the first of several such incidents) on April 24th at Middlesex Hospital, absolutely traumatized by it and have not forgotten it yet. I tried to get redress, and we had JCAHO go in to investigate, but it did no good, because the Joint Commission largely doesn’t care about how often general hospitals use restraints and seclusion on patients in psychiatric units and doesn’t even track their usage. Try and find out about it. It is impossible. They track use of R and S in psychiatric hospitals, pure and simple, that is to say, State Hospitals, and private psychiatric hospitals, but not in general hospital units. So what good is that, I ask you? Most people who have severe psychiatric illnesses (chronic) are not hospitalized in this day and age in private hospitals but on psychiatric units in general hospitals, where the treatment can be tantamount, as I know all too well, to what the UN in March called torture.

Finally I was going to upload a bunch of photos of my tiny apartment but in one fell swoop I erased everything in my iPhoto library, including all the new photos. and, well, that was that! All I have left is whatever was saved in the ipad Photostream, which was precious little when it comes down to it. Stupid me!!

So today is the anniversary of Joe’s terrible death and I am trying not to think about that and all the other anniversaries coming up…It looks like it is going to be a bright sunny day here in Connecticut so I will try to take a walk and maybe do some artwork if I can get up the energy to do so…

Is Sherry West another Susan Smith?

I am trying to embed a video of Sherry West, in the early days of her telling about what happened, just after she was released from the hospital. (NOTE: the video was removed from the internet so I am posting a link to another youtube video which is still up. ) Before she got to refine her story about the two young “African American” boys who supposedly shot her infant. If it doesn’t load the first time around, I will get it done tomorrow, after I read up on how to do it. But once you see it, think about it. Does she sound sincere, or look it? Not to me. My first reaction after seeing it was, Oh no, this is just another page of the Susan Smith playbook, writ large…I hear, so to speak, Susan Smith speaking in her voice and I know she is lying about what happened just as I knew Susan Smith was lying the very first time I heard her talk about those “poor dead babies.”

Just to give you a way to see the Sherry West case differently, if you are inclined to think about such things, look at Pamela Meyers’ video on how to spot a liar, at TED lectures, which you can see at this link,  Trust me this is better and more helpful than any rapidfire weekly TV show about detectives, and it is only 18 minutes long. You really learn a lot.

“Lady Quixote” on Recovery from Hearing Voices

Today I have a guest poster, someone who has been contributing a lot of comments to my blog and who wrote one that I thought deserved a post of its own. Without a lot of introduction, since she tells it pretty much as it is, I offer the following: one brave woman’s unique and amazing recovery story.


I believe it is a normal part of grief to have moments of hearing and seeing those close to us who have died. This is true of our pets, as well as the people in our lives, who have recently passed on. I’ve experienced it, as have many people I know, most of whom have never been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness.

What I don’t know, of course, is whether these experiences are “real,” meaning do they exist independently of our own grieving mind? I believe that at least some of these ghostly grief visitations may be real. The reason I think this, is because on two separate occasions, with two different deceased loved ones, my paranormal experience was witnessed and experienced simultaneously by other people who were with me at the time.


Life is a mystery. Death, even more so.


When I feel that someone who has recently died may be trying to communicate with me in some way, I tell them that I appreciate their caring enough to contact me, and that I miss them and hope they are in a wonderful place where I will join them someday – but to please refrain from contacting me again, because it is a “trigger” for the schizophrenia I was diagnosed with in 1967. I have not been bothered with continual voices since 1969, and I don’t ever want to go back to that miserable real-life-nightmare, again.


In most cases, when I make this request, the “visitation” immediately and permanently stops. On the rare occasion when it has not stopped, I prayed to my Creator for help and protection, and I also studiously ignore the voice or vision, and in every case it soon stopped.


My voices started when I was 14, shortly after my paternal grandfather died. His spirit seemed to visit me twice, the first time immediately after his death, when I was sitting at my desk in school and had no idea that my grandfather was about to die. Suddenly, I “knew” he was dead. It was so real, that I started to cry, right there in the classroom. When I got home from school that day, my mother met me at the door and said, “I have some bad news…” I stopped her and said, “I already know what it is, my Grandfather ‘R’ died today.” She asked me how I knew, and I said I “just did.”


A few months later a friend of mine introduced me to her Ouija Board. She said it was a tool for contacting the spirits of the dead. I had never heard of such a thing and was eager to try to contact my grandfather through her Ouija Board. We seemed to have success in contacting some kind of spirit, but whatever it was, it wasn’t my loving grandfather


My friend who owned the Ouija Board then decided to hold seances with me and some of our other friends, but nothing much came out of those, except that one girl starting screaming at the top of her lungs during one of the seances, saying that she saw a horrible vision. But no one else could see whatever it was that had her so terrified.


Around that time another school friend told me he had heard about the seances I was involved in, and he loaned me a book which he said gave excellent instructions on how to contact the dead. I don’t remember the name of that book, but it should have been entitled “Spiritism for Dummies,” or better yet: “How To Become A Schizophrenic in 5 Easy Steps!”


That book gave point by point instructions for things like “autonomic” (spirit) handwriting, and also on how to become a medium, so that spirits could use your body and your mouth to speak through. Good grief, what was I thinking when I went ahead and followed those instructions? I really must not have been very bright, when I was 14.


So, naive me, I carefully followed the book’s instructions and put myself into a trance, then I called forth the spirits, and – lo and behold – suddenly my hand was writing words all by itself, and the next thing I knew, I had a head full of loud voices that would not shut up even for a second. My only escape from the nonstop circus in my head, happened when I was asleep. During my waking hours, every moment was a real-life NIGHTMARE.


I begged the voices to PLEASE go away, go back to where they had come from. But they just laughed, cursed, and mocked me. Sometimes they told me to kill myself if I didn’t like my life anymore. They even told me to pray to Satan, since praying to God didn’t seem to help. Truly, I was in a living hell!


In desperation I went to my mother and told her about the Ouija Board, the seances, the How-to-be-a-Medium book, my “success” with autonomic spirit handwriting, and the visions and the voices that would not leave me alone. I desperately wanted help to get rid of those maddening voices, because I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without a crowd watching, mocking, and commenting! I couldn’t have a private thought without a multitude listening to it, and commenting and mocking me for the silly 14-year-old things I thought about! I asked my mother if she knew what I could do to make the horrible spirits go away?


My mother responded by making ME go away. Although I had never tried nor threatened to harm anyone, myself included, she immediately put me into a mental institution. The year was 1967, during that era when the answer to mental illness was to drug you up, lock you up, and throw away the key. My mother assured me that I would only be in the institution for a few weeks, until they made me well. But right after taking me there, as I later learned, she went home and took every item I owned to the town dump. I was never supposed to come out of the insane asylum, you see, because the schizophrenia I had been diagnosed with was “incurable.”


One of the other young teenagers involved in our seances, also ended up hearing voices, seeing visions, diagnosed schizophrenic, and committed to the same insane asylum. He had been trying to contact his mother, who died when he was six.


After nearly 2 years in the asylum, a social worker who saw me periodically because of my young age, asked me why I was there, when I always “seemed” so normal? (I was asked that question a lot, because I was not one of those who went around behaving oddly. I never talked aloud to my voices; I had no need to, since they could hear my thoughts, anyway.)


I told the social worker that I heard voices, and she asked me how the voices had gotten started. So I told her all about the Ouija Board, the seances, and the book on spiritism that had taught me step-by-step how to put myself into an hypnotic trance and contact the dead.


Then this brilliant social worker said, “Well, it seems to me that all you did was hypnotize yourself into hearing voices! You’ve seen hypnotists on TV, haven’t you? How they can hypnotize a person into believing something ridiculous, such as that they are a dog, and the next thing you know that person is barking and behaving like a dog? Then the hypnotist gives them the suggestion that they are no longer a dog, that they are themselves again, and they instantly revert to their normal human behavior. Why don’t you try hypnotizing yourself once more, and while you are under hypnosis, tell yourself that the voices are not real, and that when you wake up, you will not hear those voices, ever again.”


I went back to the ward, got into my bed, and did what she said. I highly doubted it would work, because the voices seemed as real to me as anything – how could I make myself believe via hypnosis that they were not real, when I “knew” better? But, I went ahead and tried the self-hypnosis-reverse-suggestion like my social worker had advised me to do, and…. IT WORKED! When I woke myself out of my self-hypnotic trance, the voices were GONE! There were only a few, very distant, occasional “echoes” of “little voices” now and then, for a brief period of time, but they were so quiet and intermittent that they were very easy for me to ignore, and soon even that stopped.


In this manner I have been free of voices, 99% of the time, since 1969 when I was 16 years old. I have also not taken any anti-psychotic medication since that time. The only exception to my not hearing voices is, like I said at the beginning of this long-winded post, when someone close to me dies. But in every case, I handle it by telling them to please leave me alone, with a brief explanation of why I need for them to leave me, and most do so immediately. Those that do not comply with my request, quickly go away after I pray to the Lord for help, and then I tell the voices to “get behind me,” and after that I ignore them until they get bored enough, I suppose, to go bother someone else. 😉


Today, my residual “mental problems” have to do with my chronic PTSD, general anxiety, and an occasional dark depression. I am in therapy for those things, and I also take a low dose of an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication. But I have no schizophrenia, and no psychosis of any kind, not in over 40 years, YAY!


I shared my story here in the hopes that it may help you in some way. You are someone I feel very privileged to call a friend, and I feel sad when you are having a rough time.


Miracles: Four Life Changing Events

©Jesse Taylor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
Okay, so as a friend suggested, maybe there have been five not just four miracles, with the most recent miracle having occurred, and ongoing, about three weeks ago. But more on that later. First, a definition of miracle, so we are all clear on what I mean here.

CS Lewis, a popular Christian writer of the twentieth century and still known for his Narnia Chronicles, wrote that “a miracle is something that comes totally out of the blue…” Now, he meant something extremely unlikely, like a virgin female giving birth to a child. Now, apparently, this has been observed at least once in modern times. If you don’t believe it, and can understand the technical language, you can read the following abstract as proof. Then you can decide whether or not virgin birth still counts as a miracle:

Fertil Steril. 1992 Feb;57(2):346-9 .

Chimerism as the etiology of a 46,XX/46,XY fertile true hermaphrodite.

Source: Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chicago Lying-In Hospital, Illinois.


OBJECTIVE: To determine the conceptional events resulting in a 46,XX/46,XY true hermaphrodite and to report the first pregnancy in a 46,XX/46,XY true hermaphrodite with an ovotestis… (see the rest of the abstract at PubMed)

Another thinker, British mathematician John Edensor Littlewood, suggested in what became known as Littlewood’s Law that statistically individuals should expect one-in-a-million events (“miracles”) to happen to them about once a month. By these calculations, seemingly miraculous events are actually commonplace.

And of course there is the dictionary definition of miracle, which is the one commonly accepted by both religious people who believe in miracles, and those who do not believe in their existence, but who do accept the definition of the word.


–A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be of divine origin


–A highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment

I myself would add a third, and relevant definition, or qualifier, which is “if it occurs in an individual person’s life, the event produces changes, beyond any that could have been imagined prior to the miracle, in a positive direction wholly unexpected and therefore regarded as miraculous.” To be cured from a terminal or crippling illness is of course a miracle. But so too to my way of thinking would be remission from a future-destroying addiction or mental compulsion. Needless to say, complete reversal of a severe mental illness would count as a miracle. And I can think of others that might be counted as less effulgent but just as miraculous.

Given those broader categories of miracles, then, I will proceed to tell you of mine. I do not know what the Course on Miracles is all about, nor anything of the Miracle classes offered online. If there are similarities, I dunno what it means, except that we came up with our thoughts completely independently. I have spoken of the following things as miracles for many years now without any familiarly with the C.O.M or any other such program.

So, onward to my First miracle. (Alas, I fear I will have to deal with the Second Miracle and the Third, Fourth and Fifth in following posts as this one is already getting long enough and will be longer by the time I am finished.) The first miracle concerned, as some readers may remember, plants, wild plants, field botany, in short, the wonders of the wild green world. But not just that, no, it was the discovery in myself, utterly unanticipated, of a bizarre and wonderful ability to simply know, almost without any idea how I knew it, any plant I came across. In fact, I must have seen them, if briefly, in some plant book or field guide, but it was truly uncanny, my ability to instantly recognize and categorize whole families and genera and then the species within them just by casually looking at any plant, flower or tree I saw, having but  glanced at a simple sketch or pencil drawing of a plant the night or even a week before seeing it in the wild.

I once wrote about this miracle in my first blog at Although the essay has a less than happy ending that has nothing to do with miracles, I will reprint the essay in its entirety here. Suffice it to say that the pivotal moment,  the chairotic moment and miracle that surrounds “Prunella,” which I describe early in the piece, changed my life forever.


Thirty years ago, I took the natural history course purely for exercise. I figured, what better way to stay in shape than to get credit for it? At the time, I couldn’t tell a maple from an oak, let alone one old weed from another, and it wouldn’t be easy. But just to keep off the flab would be a benefit in its own right. Since the prospectus promised daily field trips, no mention of love or awe or wonder, the last thing I expected was a miracle.
Showing up for the first day’s trip, I wore old tennis shoes of the thin-canvas Keds variety. I had no idea L.L. Bean’s half-rubber hiking boots were de rigueur for a course of this kind. What god-awful-ugly shoes just to walk in the woods! I thought in horror. Right then, I realized I’d made a huge mistake and it was too late to change my mind — I’d have to stick it out for the whole semester. I knew for sure I was going to be more miserable getting “exercise” than I ever would have with my thighs turning to mush, safe in the college library.

The teacher, Miss G, took off stomping down the path and we tramped on after her. I was last, straggling behind, half-hoping to get lost so at least I could head back to civilization. Before we’d gotten far, she halted, peering intently at something near her feet. She waited for us to catch up and gather round her, then pointed at a weed. “Heal-all. Prunella vulgaris,” she announced sternly and without passion. “Vulgaris means ‘common.’ Learn names of both genus and species. Be forewarned, ‘Heal-all’ by itself will not be an adequate answer on your quizzes.”

She stepped aside so we could take a better look. As instructed, one by one the class dutifully wrote down a description and the two names we’d been given. I was still at the back, waiting my turn without the least enthusiasm, let alone the anticipation of what, in those days, we called a “mind-blowing” experience.
“Come on, now, don’t be shy. Step up and look for yourself,” Miss G scolded me, pushing at my elbow to propel me closer.

Finally the clump of students cleared out and I had a better view. For some reason, I found myself actually kneeling in front of the weed to look at it close up. Then it happened. As if the proverbial light bulb flashed on over my head, I understood what Miss G meant when she’d said: “Weeds are only wildflowers growing where they aren’t wanted.”

Prunella, I know now, is no more than a common mint, found in poorly manicured lawns or waste ground. Yet, with its conical head of iridescent purple-lipped flowers and its square stem – on impulse, I’d reached out to touch it and discovered an amazing fact: the stem wasn’t round! – Heal-all was the single most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The world went still. There was only me and the flower and the realization I’d fallen in love.

Since one of my other courses concerned the history of early Christianity, I knew immediately what had happened. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, I’d been struck by unexpected lightning. I’d been converted. I put away my notebook, knowing I didn’t need to write down a word, knowing I’d never forget “common Prunella” as long as I lived.

There were other miracles in my life after that, but none came close to the thunderbolt that knocked me flat the afternoon I saw, truly saw, that homely little mint for the first time. “Sedges have edges and rushes are round and grasses have nodes where willows abound.” Yes, I learned such mnemonics, which helped me as much as the next person when a plant was hard to identify. But I discovered in myself an amazing feel for botany that was like sunken treasure thousands of feet beneath the ocean. Once I knew it was there, I had merely to plumb the depths, more or less unconsciously, and gold would magically appear.

I went walking in the woods every chance I got and carried Peterson’s guides with me even into town, checking out the most inconspicuous snippets of green that poked through the sidewalk cracks. The first time I came out with a certain plant’s genus and species before Miss G told the class what we were seeing, she looked at me oddly.  I began repeating this performance until once she even allowed me to argue her into changing her classification of a tricky species. If I still hung back behind the group as we walked, it was no longer from reluctance. I was simply too entranced, looking at each tree, to keep up the pace.

By December, as the semester was coming to a close, Miss G had begun using me as her unofficial assistant, asking my opinion whenever there was a question as to what was before us. Oh, I confess, I never did get the knack of birds. It was the trees and wildflowers that stole my heart entire.

At the end of the semester, we received course evaluations in lieu of letter grades. I opened mine eagerly, expecting praise. Instead, Miss G was terse and unenthusiastic: “Pamela faithfully attended every field trip, but for most of the course she failed to share her insights and established expertise with the rest of the class.” End quote. “Failed to share her established expertise“? What was she talking about? Did she think I’d already known everything she taught us? How could she not understand what she’d done for me, introducing me to little Prunella, how I’d learned everything I knew after that moment, not before?

It was the worst evaluation I’d ever gotten, the injustice of which struck me to the marrow. I went to her office to explain and found a sign on her door saying she’d been called away on a family emergency and would not be returning until the next semester. But I wasn’t returning for the second semester. I was transferring back to my original school.

I caught my ride home, spending four hours crammed into the back of an old Volkswagen bug with two other students, wordless with indignation that replayed and reverberated through my mind. How could she think such a thing? I couldn’t stop writing a letter of protest in my head as the highway flowed endlessly beneath us.

I did write Miss G, finally, explaining all she’d awoken in me, emphasizing the magic I’d discovered in her class, my new-found joy and amazement. At the end of March I got a reply, but no apology, no hint that she understood she’d misunderstood. Not even appreciation for my gratitude towards her and what her course had done for me. Just a brisk, no-nonsense note, little better than a form letter. I had the impression that she didn’t quite remember who I was, that I was just another faceless student writing to her about a natural history course she’d taught perhaps forty times in her long career as a teacher.

Whether she knew who I was or even recognized what she’d done for me mattered little in the end. What did matter was that when I met homely little Prunella, I discovered the whole world in a common weed.

©Pamela Spiro Wagner, 2004

The next posts, or in the following weeks, I hope to cover the other four miracles. If you are interested in them, and I fail to follow through, feel free to “goose” me with a reminder. My mind is a sieve and I rarely remember anything without a string tied to my thumb! 8D

To Kill or Not to Kill: Physician-Assisted Suicide?


My brother visited me recently and for some reason we got into a discussion about whether or not we supported physician-assisted suicide. We differed on the fundamentals: Phil, aka Chip, supports assisted suicide in every sense of the word. He thinks that it should be legal for a physician to prescribe a lethal medication essentially for anyone who asks.


This horrified me. Wait, he went on to explain. In his opinion, everyone should have to push a button upon waking in the morning in order to stay alive. If you failed to push it, you die. Meaning that the day would begin with everyone choosing to live, thus having to take responsibility for making that choice. We would start with the premise that every person who “wakes up alive” has chosen to live and cannot claim rightly to be suicidal…I guess that Chip as a psychiatrist, feels too many of his patients do not want to live, but also do not sincerely want to die, and he thinks that they need to acknowledge the latter. That might be good, but I also know that there are those who are so depressed that in their involuntarily mentally incapacitated state, they might not be able to press the “I want to live” button, and thus would die, even though in a healthier frame of mind, they would have chosen to live…

For me, I agree that when terminally ill, a person should have the right to end his or her life, and should be able to do so without interference from authority, legal or medical. I also think that in certain cases, palliative or hospice care helps with this, and already has done, silently and as it were secretly for years: the administration of a sedating dose of morphine when the time is right goes a long way towards assisting a person’s “dying process.” Not a lethal dose mind you, but a dose to “ease breathing” and one from which the physician and all witnesses understand the person will likely never awaken.

(My friend Joe is another case entirely. They turned off his ventilator and dosed him with morphine after 4 years with ALS. I firmly  believe that they murdered Joe outright, against his will…But no more will be said of that at the present time.)


On the other hand, let’s face it, if you really want to commit suicide, it is easy to do so if you are able-bodied and not terminally ill: just jump in front of a bus, or out of a tall building’s window. There are a dozen sure-fire ways and they have been used for millennia as an easy way out. The problem is for those who are physically so debilitated that they literally cannot “jump” or swallow the pills or whatever. Yet  unless they are forcibly nourished and hydrated through a feeding tube, they can always refuse food or liquid, which it seems is not agonizing after all. That is according to what recent research and personal witness (my own) have indicated. When my friend Lynn L died – essentially from not a refusal to take liquids– she did not suffer acutely from deprivation but seemed slowly to cross into a never-never land. She simply drifted off to an endless sleep and passed away.


The idea that a physician could freely prescribe an overdose of a lethal drug to any someone who came asking for it, that just strikes me as the height of 1) irresponsibility and 2) cruelty, by someone whose job, after all, is characterized by the Hippocratic Oath: primum non nocere or “First do no harm.” If killing  a patient is not doing harm, then I do not know what is. I simply do not understand how bloodying one’s hands in the act of killing, no matter how good one’s intentions, cannot but badly affect any so-called healer.


Surely there are other ways to deal with a person’s pain and suffering than to throw up one’s hands and say, well, I cannot help you feel better or live longer, so I will simply shoot or poison or – whatever – you so you feel nothing and don’t have to deal any longer.This completely disregards the inherent value of the struggle itself, and the promise of something worthwhile, if only at the very end  at the moment of dying, in having faced the suffering and undergone it fully.


Look, I do not like or want anyone to suffer agony in the last stages of life, and am all for morphine use, liberal or sparing, depending on the patient’s desires and needs. But there is no absolute value in complete suffering or pain relief, not in my book. For me, I insist that I must feel my own feelings, and in that quest, I must decide to feel the pain, emotional or otherwise, rather than dull it with drugs or anything else. Yes, it hurts, but the hurt somehow feels better because it is mine and real, and not the forced dull nothingness of being drugged out of it.


If you have other thoughts about this, do feel free to share them in the comments section. In the meantime, I found this article on the very same subject at Medscape Psychiatry. It was written by ethicist and psychiatrist, Ronald  W. Pies, MD and may be found in its original form at this link:

Medscape Psychiatry > Ethics in Psychiatry


Do We Need ‘Thanaticians’ for the Terminally Ill?


Ronald W. Pies, MD


Posted: 09/26/2012


The Ethical Dilemma of Physician-Assisted Suicide

My 89-year-old mother had been losing ground for some years, experiencing what geriatricians sometimes call “the dwindles.” Toward the end of her life, she was beset by a deteriorating heart; an inability to walk; and occasional, severe gastrointestinal pain. My family got her the best medical treatment available — eventually including home hospice care — and she generally maintained a positive attitude throughout her long downhill slide.


But one day, as I sat beside her bed, she seemed unusually subdued. “Honey,” she said, “How do I get out of this mess?” I had a pretty good idea of what she was really asking me, but I deflected her question with another question: “Ma, what ‘mess’ do you mean?” I asked. “It’s all right,” she replied, smiling sadly, “I’ll manage.”

My mother was doing what she had always done: sparing her children from pain. In this case, it was the pain of dealing with the waning days of her life and the frustration of knowing there was no easy escape from the burdens of dying slowly. “Ma, I’ll always make sure you are getting enough treatment for your pain,” I added, taking her hand — knowing that the prospect of unremitting pain is often an underlying fear of terminally ill persons.


Yet, unspoken in my mother’s question was the issue of so-called physician-assisted dying, sometimes called “physician-assisted suicide” — an enormously heated controversy both outside and within the medical profession. In my home state, Massachusetts, the issue has come to the fore, owing to a November ballot initiative for a measure that would allow terminally ill patients to be prescribed lethal drugs.[1] A closely related bill (H.3884) has also come before the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary.


Similar to laws already on the books in Oregon and Washington state, the proposed Massachusetts law builds in numerous “safeguards”: For example, patients would be required to submit their request in writing twice, and those requests must be 15 days apart. As reported recently in the New York Times,[2] fears regarding widespread overuse or abuse of the so-called “death with dignity” laws in Oregon and Washington have largely failed to materialize, at least according to some studies.


Nevertheless, the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) has long been opposed to physician-assisted suicide. In March 2012, the MMS President, Dr. Lynda Young, testified before the Joint Committee[3] and did not mince her words. Allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide, she stated, “…would cause more harm than good,” and she argued that “…physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” Instead, Dr. Young asserted, the physician’s role should be to ensure that the terminally ill patient “…continue[s] to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy, and good communication.”


With considerable ambivalence, I agree with Dr. Young. In my view, terminally ill but mentally competent patients should be at liberty not only to refuse further medical treatment, but also to end their own lives — for example, by refusing to accept liquid or solid food. Contrary to a widespread belief, voluntary refusal of food and fluids does not result in an agonizing or painful death, according to a2003 report in the New England Journal of Medicine.[4] Indeed, medical ethicist Dr. Cynthia Geppert informs me that voluntary refusal of food and drink is now considered an accepted approach to dying in palliative care.


As Dr. Thomas Szasz has argued in his book, Fatal Freedom: The Ethics and Politics of Suicide,[5] a liberty is not the same as a right, because the latter entails a reciprocal obligation on someone else’s part. (If I have a right to free speech, the state has a reciprocal obligation to protect that right.) Moreover, the liberty to commit suicide does not entail the “right” to have one’s physician prescribe a lethal dose of medication. Indeed, Dr. Szasz believes that “physician-assisted suicide” is really a euphemism for “medical killing” — more technically, “heterohomicide” on the part of the physician.


While I disagree with Dr. Szasz on many issues in psychiatry, I think his analysis here is essentially correct. Physician-actuated heterohomicide, in my view, is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” I believe that permitting physicians to write prescriptions for lethal drugs will eventually erode the trust that all patients should place in their physicians. More than a euphemism, “physician-assisted suicide” may be a contradiction in terms. And in my view, the very concept violates both the implicit ethical contract between physician and patient, and that between the physician and society.

To be clear: None of this means that physicians should collude in the cruel and unnecessary prolongation of dying, as is often seen in hospital settings. As physician and ethicist Dr. Fred Rosner has argued,[6] “To prolong life is a [commandment], to prolong dying is not.” Thus, in the Jewish medicoethical tradition, “removing impediments to death” is sometimes acceptable — that is, discontinuing treatments that needlessly prolong the dying of a suffering, terminally ill patient, but without actively bringing about the patient’s death. (The distinction between “letting” someone die and “making” someone die was supported in the 1997 US Supreme Court case of Vacco v Quill,[7]which upheld New York State’s ban on assisted suicide.)


But what about those suffering, terminally ill, mentally competent patients who will not choose to end their lives by refusing food and drink and instead seek out “assistance” from healthcare professionals? Again, I do not believe that medical professionals should participate in assisting a patient’s suicide. But I sometimes wonder whether society ought to permit somebody to do so.


For lack of a better term, let’s call such a hypothetical individual a “thanatician.” Let’s posit that carefully trained and closely monitored thanaticians would be permitted to provide medically screened, dying patients the same type of lethal medication now prescribed by physicians in Oregon and Washington — under essentially the same restrictions and safeguards.


But wait: Isn’t this proposal a cop-out? Doesn’t it merely place the moral issue of assisted suicide in the lap of the nonphysician, allowing the dying patient’s physician to shuffle off with a clear conscience? Even worse: Would the use of such death-dealing personnel amount to abandonment of the patient, as Dr. Geppert recently suggested to me?


Still other questions arise. As my colleague Dr. James L. Knoll has suggested, might not the training, monitoring, and supervising of thanaticians create more problems and headaches than it would solve? Finally, doesn’t the very notion of “thanaticians” suggest that we have lost faith in what Dr. Knoll rightly calls “the intensely personal journey” of doctor and patient?


I, too, struggle with these questions and find no easy answers. I suspect that at present, the best approach to the dying patient is through the skills of the palliative care physician. Palliative sedation, for many terminally ill patients, may be a viable alternative to managing suffering without ending life. Moreover, a careful psychiatric assessment of patients requesting physician-assisted death is always indicated, because major depression may distort the patient’s judgment as death approaches.


How we deal with terminally ill patients is a painful topic that I never discussed with my mother, who was fortunate enough to have excellent home hospice care in her final days. But I believe this is a discussion we urgently need to have.


Acknowledgment: I wish to thank Cynthia M.A. GeppertMD, PhD, and James L. Knoll IV, MD, for their valuable comments on earlier drafts of this article. The views presented here, however, are solely my own.



Mental Hospital: Psychiatric “Treatment” and Abuse II (Continued)

I was admitted last Tuesday night, the 17th of July I believe it was, to the Institute of Living, the psychiatric division of Hartford Hospital in central Connecticut. I do not remember this. The fact that I have amnesia for it and for most of the Wednesday following only occurred to me on Thursday, a day and a half later, when I wondered — the train of thought must have had to do with the seclusion episode that took place Wednesday evening and which I described in yesterday’s blog post — why they had been so violent with me, why they had so quickly secluded and threatened me with restraints in a situation that didn’t come within miles of “requiring” them. Surely, I thought, the staff member who admitted me, whoever that had been, had asked me a critical question, which is on every  admissions questionnaire upon entering a psych unit or hospital these days: have you ever experienced trauma or sexual assault? (or words to that effect). I could not, and still cannot, for the life of my body or soul remember anything asked or answered at that time. There’s little left in my memory beyond a vague “snapshot” of being wheeled into The Institute of Living (hence forward to be called by its nickname The Toot or by its initials, The IOL) and my understanding that I had been transferred out of the ER. Then the memory  goes blank until many hours later. Understanding only as late as Thursday that I had this gap, and pained by the violence dealt me the night before, I went up to my “contact person” and asked about my admission. Could I find out whether this question was ever asked me, and what my answers were?  At first, naturally and as a matter of course, she refused. That was SOP. Refuse, refuse, and refuse.  So as I stood there, earnest in my request, she seemed about to summarily dismiss it as just another bothersome demand from a too-demanding patient already much disliked by all. What did I expect, cooperation? But to my surprise, her misgivings and the flicker of irritation that had crossed her face at first changed to a flattened look of resignation. She agreed to read my answers to the questions to me. But that was all she would do, so don’t go expecting more than that.

As she read from the top, a few memories stirred and woke, but only temporarily.  I fear they soon faded again into the all-white-out of oblivion. Only the trauma memories remain, for they apparently are stronger than thieving Ativan. Can I push myself to remember what her reading my answers back to me recalled to mind? She told me…what? She said that I told the admitting staff member, whom I do not remember a thing about, do not even recall if that person was male or female, doctor or nurse or what…I told that person I was not homicidal, not suicidal, not hearing voices, and that I didn’t need to be in the hospital. Three answers were true, or true enough by then. After having been nearly killed in the ER the people in my head/outside of it, who tell me to do things to myself were not so relentlessly horrible in their demands…so I was indeed no longer suicidal, homicidal or in need of hospitalization. I just wanted to get out of there and go on my upcoming writing-retreat vacation.

As I recall the little I recall now, this nurse, my “contact person” read to herself a lot of the paperwork and relatively little aloud, despite her promises. I kept asking what she had read, and prompting her to read out loud, but she let forth only a few phrases. I still do not know why… though I can guess that pretty bad things are written there about me. That would not surprise me one iota. I do not really care. They will largely be lies or descriptions of that awful scene in the ER from one very biassed point of view. No one will tell MY side of the story, that’s for damn sure. Whatever is said there will be based on what the ER personnel and the guard-thugs did to me, but if my contact person believed them reading them, and never bothered to find out the half of it, then who knows what they all thought about me, or believed…Anyhow, I do not care, because they too were thuggish, professionally and psychologically.

But the big question was yet unanswered. Had I ever in fact been asked about past experience of trauma or sexual assault? Contact Person, whom I won’t name as she was at least marginally decent to me, now seemed interested in this too, having paged through the lengthy document and not found it. She seemed puzzled, said she knew it was a standard question. She started perusing the thing again from the beginning. A minute or two later, she poked a page.

“Ah, here it is. And your answer is blank.”

“So the person just skipped over it. They just skipped it!”

“It appears so. Do you want to answer it now?” She took out her pen.

“Yes, and yes. I have experienced sexual assault three times. And severe trauma due to seclusion and restraints in many hospitals.” I looked at her. She was writing. “Tell me what you wrote.

“Experienced sexual assault. Has issues with seclusion and restraint.”

“NO! I said, it was severe trauma. I have PTSD, ask my doctor. Ask, I dunno, give me a test. I cry just talking about it. My heart rate goes up just thinking about it, even though it happened more than two years ago. It was trauma, and you cannot do it to me again!” She wrote something on the paper but didn’t read it to me. She just clicked her pen off and stood.

“Now you have your answer. I have things to do. Let’s go.” With that, and no discussion of what had taken place on Wednesday night, let alone in the ER, she hurried me out of the side office so she could go back to the nursing station to do some “real work.”


I suppose there must have been some incidents of relative kindness at the Toot. There must have been exceptions to the Hartford Hospital IOL “coal dust standard.” But only Albert, a tech, stands out. Because they injected me with too much Ativan on Wednesday pm and I was discharged Friday noon, I had very little time between the ER’s monster dose and D3South’s equally large dose of Ativan-it-Away to retain much of anything but what stood out enough to stick, and really stick tight. Their puny kindnesses mostly did not, except for Albert.

On the other hand, the sheer meanness of the staff was astounding. I had a semi-meaningful interaction — though unpleasant  – in all that time with only one individual who was not programmed to speak with me. And even that started out with nastiness, though I admit it was sparked by something that was “my fault,” as you will see.

Friday morning I needed migraine meds and my 8am pills. I went to desk at 7:55 and asked for them. A nurse or tech or someone –I never knew and no one ever bothered to tell me who or what they were — lingering at the desk said that the med nurse somewhere in the back would get them. I wandered off, figuring it would take some time and she would bring them to me, which is what they did at every single place I have ever been. But no, by the time I thought about it again, realizing that she had never brought them, it was 8:45 and people were lined up for their 9:00am meds already. I signaled above them to the nurse at the med window that I had not gotten mine for 8:00am yet. She told me that of course not: I left the med station; why should she go after me? Then she indicated that I should get in line to be next…even though that meant stepping in front of someone else. Okay, so I got in line, and  – oh, I do not remember all that happened except that I became angrier and angrier with her, resenting her attitude. As a consequence, I did everything I could do to irritate her. She poured the meds at the computer, where I couldn’t see them, saying their names softly to herself so I asked to see the packaging. I didn’t trust her not to withhold or add something I didn’t want. Because I had asked for Imitex an hour before I sensed she would not include it. Well, lo and behold: No Imitrex! So I took the pills, but asked her for the Imitrex as well.

Ah, revenge time! “I will get the Imitrex at 9:00 am sharp, when it is due. That is 10 minutes from now. You can come back and wait in line then.” I just stood there, not budging. I would never stoop so low as to impugn a person’s person, but I probably let loose a few curses and most certainly raised my already angry voice a few decibels. Finally, speaking in a calm, respectful voice, a man whose name I learned was Albert came up to me asking in such a polite manner that I even looked him in the eye, to “please just lower your voice” so he could hear me tell him what the problem was.” Well, treated in such a fashion I understood he would wait for me to calm and not get angry back so I was able to take a few breaths and then make him understand what she was doing…He said, with the med nurse standing well within earshot, though I do not think he intended any manipulation, “It’s okay, don’t worry. It’s nearly nine, and I’m sure the med nurse will get your medication for you.” (I was sure of quite the opposite but harrumph! Well, what could that SOB, excuse me, DOS — daughter of a stud (med-nurse) do but give me the Imitrex now?) I might have crowed, but instead, thanks to Albert and in respect for him, I took it without a fuss and thanked him again.

This sort of treatment gives the lie to what so many providers – both individuals and insitutions — say about the goal of “empowering patients.” What bloviated BS! What they really want are not empowered patients but cowering patients, people too scared and drugged up to object or make trouble in the first place and then who continue to cower before the establishment MD’s power structures all the way to the last place.


My butt hurts from sitting slouched on a bed all day. I need a break. So I am going to post this and go outside in the cooling darkness of the Litchfield hills and drink the air. Since I have nothing I have to do here but write, I will post tomorrow about that single meaningful encounter I had while imprisoned at The Institute of Living. If I still feel it is worth writing about, which as I think about it, it may not be.

Oh, what the heck: Basically, it concerned an encounter with this female tech, a woman who in passing me in the hallway, the first time she had spoken to me so far as I knew, accused me of moral turpitude (not in those words), made a statement shaming me for my behavior on Friday morning at the medication window. What had I done?  By talking too loudly, I had made “the poor man behind [me]” cover his ears and point at his skull to communicate his displeasure. PLUS, I had made everyone wait a good 30 minutes…I knew the 30 minutes was an exaggeration, so I didn’t even touch that, but the shaming tactic got to me. I went back a few minutes later and said I wanted to speak with her. We went to a couple of lounge chairs in the hall and sat down.

“What precisely did I do that was morally wrong this morning?”

“Do you know you talked so loudly this morning that the poor little man behind you was covering his ears and pointing at his head?”

“So I should have talked more softly, but I do not have eyes in the  back of my head to see him. I could not know he was communicating by pointing at his head. It is not morally wrong not to have eyes in the back of your head, nor is it morally wrong to speak in a loud voice.”

She reiterated the case of “the poor little man behind you pointing at his head.” But I continued to press her on what was morally wrong because I didn’t have eyes to see behind me. Finally she granted that I could not help not seeing him and that it wasn’t actually a morally wrong thing to do, to yell or talk too loudly. At this point I said to her, nearly in tears because just having a calm conversation had taken such effort on my part, “Be careful what you say to someone on this unit you know nothing about. Words have power and you should use that power with care. You have NO idea how those words you spoke affected me, no possible idea…”

She gave me an intent look, almost a fearful one, as if afraid that — well, no, I don’t think she gave a damn whether or not she caused me any emotional harm. She no doubt despised me along with the rest of the nursing staff. But perhaps she suddenly appreciated how even her words were important and powerful, and carried weight and could do some good but could also do just as much psychological damage and maybe more sometimes than the loud voice that damaged mostly ear drums.