Friday, May 28, 2010
One summer, I collected pictures of a longed-for red TR7. One fall, I read every book I could about Beryl Markham. One spring, I attended every Grand Prix Puissance event that was held. After getting my driver's licence, I would drive with my best friend to late-night horse auctions to scheme about saving a horse from becoming glue. The year that my siblings and I entered into "Mom-world," I began to sketch cartoons about what was happening as a way to find humor in the tragedy.
Many of these random interests, it seems, have come back to help me make sense of life. Just a bit later than I thought.
At hospice the other day, a man shared with me some poems he wrote in 1985. He didn't know then why he wrote them. While we sat by his dying family member, he realized why *then* he had that random, passionate muse who helped him write every day. It was because *now* he could turn them into hymns to be sung at his family member's memorial service. His nephew would sing them.
I think that in these 'long time ago' anecdotal interests, our passions link us to something that is going on in our life right now, in this moment. Or niche-interests that I have now might be useful or helpful in the future.
I continue to be amazed at how God connects these passions and our lived in a way that brings healing and hope.
Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. - 1 Cor 13:12
What is in your moment now, from "way back when"?
- three weeks ago the brother had been in the trauma bay for a broken arm from a bicycle ride, this lung puncture had occurred then but only recently diagnosed
- their mother had just been admited as an inpatient from the EC, having just experienced severe shortness of breath and complications from lung cancer
- her brother's children are currently grief-stricken by the death of their mother's mother - the wake will be tomorrow and the funeral the day after
- last year her husband had been in an accident, received a hip replacement and she was his main care giver. Last month, he fell off a ladder during a painting job and his leg was broken in several places. Between the hip and the leg he needs her constant care
- on the friday before the hip replacement, the storm that blew through the town flattened three trees onto her house
- her work is requiring her to put out 115% productivity and so she's on mandatory overtime
I look in her solid brown eyes. She looks back at me with a sigh. "What gets you through this?" I ask. "The Lord," she smiled. She shares how it's her faith that God will be with her through all this. She shares how she surrenders each day to how God's creating something new.
She's workin' it... and meanwhile she ministered to me.
We're not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical. We're partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours. 2 Corinthians 1:23-24
How are you workin' it in this moment?
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
One of the special tools we got early on is to ask the patient what their understanding is of their situation. I usually ask something like, "What's going on?" or the even more direct, "Why are you here in the hospital?"
For some reason I asked this man, "How did you get here?" What *was* I thinking?
Had I looked at the census, I would have noticed he was born in 1919 so he had some years on him. Had I been a bit less enthusiastic, I would have noticed the nurse manager was very happy that I came to visit with this man. Had I not been pre-occupied with how hot it was in the room, I would have noticed the PCA (patient care associate) sighed with relief that I "took over" his attention and I would have noticed much earlier that he spoke with a very, very slow drawl.
Well, missing all those clues and out came my question. He talked about being orphaned at 5 years old - once by his parents and then again by his aunt and uncle. Then, his sister and brother took care of him and he began working near where he lived in Bronx. Then they moved to Brooklyn. Then Long Island. [by this time, I'm beginning to realize that he thought I asked for his *life* story, not his *last two days* story.]
"During WWII...," he began... well this went on for a while and since he was hard of hearing and sight-challenged he didn't notice my fidgetiness. Probably better. Once I noticed this, I took a breath and relaxed into his story.
Between our mutually-missing clues, we had a funny, endearing visit. At the "end" of his story, when he described what happened that got him to the hospital, we were holding hands and just enjoying each other. He said as I left how glad he was that he could share his story. He said it helped him remember when he got to tell someone.
After I visited a few more patients, the nurse told me that he said, referring to me, "That doctor knows more about me than I know myself!"
You know, I hope that when I am 91 years old someone comes to hear me into speech! He gifted me with reminding me that we all have stories to tell. Someday in the not too distant future, I hope someone takes the time to hear me tell about my CPE stories. *Warning: this may take some time.*
So the man went into the house. The camels were unloaded and given straw and feed. Water was brought to bathe the feet of the man and the men with him. Then Laban brought out food. But the man said, "I won't eat until I tell my story." Laban said, "Go ahead; tell us." - Genesis 24:32-33
What story are you telling, in this moment?
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I'm pretty sure that there's one thing that's not listed in this rag that I hear requested over and over. Here's one example.
I enter the patient's room and he looks right in my eye. He's confused anyway, and with my white chaplain jacket he assumes that I am a doctor or therapist or nurse or some medical treatment person. No, I reply, I'm the Chaplain. He pauses to consider this but he's very aggravated.
I WANT TO GO HOME!!! NOW!!! AND NOT IN THREE DAYS!!! NOW!!!
This is his echoing request, even after I remind him that I'm simply there to be with him and visit with him until his mother arrives in a few minutes. "My mom?" he asks. He pauses to consider this. Then he remembers what he wants.
I DON'T WANT MY MOM. I WANT TO GO HOME!!!
After a while, he gets more aggravated and more angry, waving his white-mitted hands at me and speaking gruffly through his recently extubated throat. His 75 year old mom arrives after five agonizing minutes. She reminds him that he had died. "Don't you remember, son? You stopped breathing. You were blue! I rolled you over, gave you CPR and then the ambulance brought you here to the hospital. You are in ICU." He pauses to consider this, but still...
MOM, I WANT TO GO HOME!!! NOW!!!
I reflected on this visit all afternoon. How am I like this patient? I want to go home, too! And, thankfully, I reflect on how I am not like this patient. It will be soon - 3 1/2 weeks - and I'll cry and grieve the loss of this program, the transitioning of relationships, and even the familiar pattern of sleeping in three different beds a week. What I "want" comes with it's costs and it's benefits - that's a big difference between me and this patient.
Still, what does this patient's theology say to me? That it's okay to yell at God. To keep asking for what I want even with the knowledge that God has a bigger sense of what's possible in the big picture.
...I'm trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions. 1 Cor 7:32
What do uwanna in this moment?
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live twenty
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Krista Tippett interviewed Desmond Tutu about how his understanding of God and humanity has unfolded through the history he's lived. He speaks of reforming South Africa and the exuberance and despair experienced in the 1990's.
Then he shares, "...and just as we were recovering our breath, the god of surprises played his most extraordinary and incredible card..."
All day this notion of God of Surprises has shown up for me. In particular this afternoon when I met with the family of a motorcycle accident victim. His condition has been grave for the last week and even yesterday, his wife replied, they were considering "survivability" - or not. It was certainly been a despairing place.
Then, surprisingly, this morning he moved his arms. The family requested a meeting and the doctor was available. The chaplain (me) arrived just at the start as they began chatting. The second opinion neurologist appeared seemingly out of nowhere. The nurse was available to hear what the doctor recommended. All within two hours, the God of Surprises acted in a previously unplanned and unexpected way.
I count on this God of Surprises to bring newness every day. It's not always so smooth and it's not always good news, either. I do count on God to surprise me. I guess that's something to add to my pastoral theology paper!
If I were in your shoes, I'd go straight to God, I'd throw myself on the mercy of God. After all, he's famous for great and unexpected acts; there's no end to his surprises. Job 5:8 (The Message)
How is God surprising you in this very moment?
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I can't quite say why this has happened, but it has. Perhaps it's my Baptist chaplain-mate and his ability to "name that chapter and verse in two notes." Perhaps it's my Adventist chaplain-mate and her ability to find a banquet of scripture for just about any topic that comes up. Perhaps it's my Presbyterian chaplain-mate who knows just the right Psalms for just the right spiritual balm.
As I wondered out loud one day, a friend read me this "thought for the day" from one of her daily devotions. It really struck home for me.
"What's so special about the Bible?
She was a shy African woman. When teased by her loud-mouthed neighbour, she was tongue-tied, unable to produce a ready answer to her taunts. The reason fo the scorn which was heaped upon her was the place tha thte shy woman gave to the bible. Not onl did she read it regularly; if any problem or dilemma faced her which she found difficult to deal with, she would go into her hut, turn to her passages which she though might help her, meditate upon them, then emerge to deal with the situation.
Things came to a head. In front of others, the neighbour took her to task. "Ther are all kinds of books in the world which can help us find how to live," she said. "Yet you turn to just one, always the same one. Why, tell me, why? Why this one book?"
At last, the woman's tongue was loosed, the words came. "Other books I read," she said, "This book reads me." - Ian Fraser
I think that's what's happening - it's reading me!
= = = = =
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. - BCP 237
What Word has seeped into your being in this moment?
I heard about his upcoming discharge during a routine visit. I showed up at *just* the right moment when the physical therapist(s) were preparing to remove his stabilizing halo. (God has a way of arranging these things!)
(The halo had been installed in February, following a decline in his neck bone quality. This device, which sets on top of a sheepskin chest harness, held his head and neck completely still via the four screws that were placed into his skull and attached to the round ring that encompassed his head. That ring was then held in place by four bars connected to the aforementioned harness.
When I showed up for my routine check in, I asked Mitchell if he was up for a visit? Sure, he replied, and behind me I heard the voices of his PT and nurse team. They all invited me to stay as they removed the halo. Lefty loosey / Righty tighty - get the angle of the dangle just right and with the flip of the last screw, just so, *poof* he was free of this contraption!
There was no shortage of applause from the eight medical care givers in the room and comments like, "Moses said Let My People Go!" or "Freedom, yay, Freedom!"
This was the last major medical barrier before Mitchell could move to a more appropriate living situation. (I keep telling folks, any hospital is not the place to get well... we want you to go home as soon as possible!) On that halo-removal day, he let me know that the following Monday he had a ticket to ride!
On Monday morning, I showed up for my last check in with Mitchell. His PT was about to give him instructions about his electric wheelchair when I popped in his room. PT allowed me some moments with Mitchell as she prepared the chair for his daily work out.
As I told him goodbye, I realized many things that he had taught me in the last 9 months.
- He taught me the importance of perseverance through his patient responses as I bumbled my first few conversations with him, asking over and over "what did you say?" (That was before he had his trac removed and he could not speak ~ only mouth his words.)
- He taught me humility when he shared his inner courage to get strong and show his kids how he can still be their strong papa.
- He taught me how to suffer with when he invited me to stay with him during medical procedures and I learned to not shy away.
- He taught me the importance of simple presence when he thanked me for watching TV with him one day.
- He taught me how a smile from someone who otherwise cannot move a muscle can mean the world.
I'm not the only one who received gracious lessons from Mitchell. I am pretty sure that I was one of dozens. The day after Mitchell left, I saw the Art Therapist at the cafeteria. She explained, ...
"I went in to say goodbye to Mitchell yesterday. When I walked in the room there was a circle of nurses praying for him and wishing him well. It was quite moving."
It was a Good Bye, indeed.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
"Trauma: GSW through and "
God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I'm never out of your sight. You know everything I'm going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can't take it all in! Psalm 139:1[ A David Psalm ] (The Message)