#CPE Unit 1: #Verbatim 6 #WhatChaplainsDo

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: “God’s Creation” – per husband

CLINICAL DIAGNOSIS: small cell cancer, metastasized to the brain and lungs, pneumonia

PRESENTING PROBLEM: Advanced Directive Request

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

I was paged for an Advanced Directive, and was told “the husband is here, and he was a marine for twenty years, and he’s pretty aggressive, so be ready for that”. I wasn’t sure what that meant, or what they were trying to prepare me for exactly.

1. PASTORAL PLANS: My pastoral plans were to explain the advanced directive, and be prepared to leave it with them and come back later if they needed time to talk about things before signing it. I was also curious the warning regarding the husband, and what kind of aggressive he was. As I prayed on the way for help ministering to the patient and in wisdom with the husband, I felt a huge strength fill me and peace just wash over me. I was not scared, and felt specifically to hold back and wait, that I was prepared for this encounter, and to just flow with what unfolded.

2. SITUATION FIRST IMPRESSIONS: When I came to the room, I noticed a different sign for precautions that I had never seen before. It was for transplants, it said, and the warnings were that there could not be fresh flowers in the room and the patient herself had to wear a mask if she leaves the room. The door was open but a curtain drawn around the bed. I foamed in and knocked on the door frame as I entered. I first heard the beeping of machines through the curtain, and then came through to see an elderly woman leaning over in bed. She was wearing a knitted hat, sitting loosely on her head, and she obviously had lost her hair from chemo. She had bruises all over her arms, and when she reached out to shake my hand she was very hot with fever. In the near corner of the room, in the small space between the bed and the window-door, paced an older man that looked very rough. He was wearing a hat, jeans, and a retired marines shirt with a plaid flannel shirt over it.

P=Patient, H=Husband, C=Chaplain

C1: Hello, my name is Emily. I am the Chaplain on call today, and I got a message that you were wanting an advanced directive?
H1: You. Sit there. (Husband’s voice is loud and booming, and he commands me to sit in the nearby chair with the slamming of his hand into the back of the chair, enough to knock the chair towards me.)
C2: (I look from him and his chair to the patient.) Good afternoon, I brought you this paper to look at – where would it be easiest for you for me to be?
P2: (Patient smiled at me, looked at her husband and smirked, and then turned back to me.) You can sit where you like, and now that I know you are not afraid of him, you can stay as long as you like.
H2: Don’t be afraid of me. I’m a marine, and always have been, and always will be. You sit here, so she can see and use this table to sign your papers. Glad you got here so quick-like.
C3: (The chair is between him and the doorway, and the patient was leaning over toward the bed. So I did sit on the edge of the chair to work with the patient at eye level, but would not have if the chair were not between him and the door.) Thank you. I just have these papers you requested, and I can explain them if you like. When you are ready to sign them, I need to get another staff person to sign with me. But I want to be sure you understand the forms and have all your questions answered first.
H3: We have done this before, but she lost the papers. So she just needs to sign them again so the hospital will know what she wants in case something goes wrong.
P4: (Essie interrupts him.) It’s not in case something goes wrong, honey. It’s for when I die. I am going to die, and I want them to just let me go.
H4: Stop it! (He slams his hand on the table.) Stop talking like that! (He looks at me, and points emphatically at her.) Don’t listen to her or this nonsense. She is going to get better, and get out of here, and I am going to take her home, do you understand? She just had a little fall, and it hurt her because she had back surgery awhile back.
P5: Harry. Listen to me. We have to talk about this. I fell because I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe because the cancer is spread to my lungs. They can’t do more chemo. That palliative care team came to talk to us about ideas and options, and this paper is about my last options. (Essie starts to cry.)
H5: Stop crying! Buck up! Buck up and get over this. Buck up! (Husband is yelling at her now.) You’re a snapper, do you hear? A snapper! (Husband turns away from her, and makes a sobbing sound, and blows his nose in a red handkerchief. Patient is also crying still.)
C6: I hear a lot of emotion between you two, and it sounds like this has been a really hard journey – especially lately.
H6: (He turns to me, quieter now.) She just fell.
P6: I passed out.
H7: She got hurt.
P7: I was unconscious, and not breathing.
H8: She had to get checked out.
P8: He called the ambulance, and they admitted me to the hospital.
H8: She had some procedures.
P9: I had a PET Scan and some radiation.
H9: They don’t know what they are going to do next.
P10: They don’t know what else they can do.
H10: We need these papers, though (pointing at my papers), to make sure we have a plan in place for whatever happens next if we need it.
P11: We need these papers, so they can stop trying to fix what can’t be fixed, and to just let me die naturally.
H11: (Husband looks at Essie) Well, no one is going to let you die. (He turns to me again) But we don’t want to keep her body stuck here after she does die, so we want to make sure our wishes are known.
P12: My wishes are to just die naturally. When it’s my time, I just want to go.
H12: Well, that’s later, when it’s time. This is about them being able to not just keep your body alive after you have already gone. But if there is an emergency, they will still take care of you and resuscitate you. We won’t lose you, I will make sure of that.
P13: I don’t want to be resuscitated! (Essie begins to cry.)
H13: What are you talking about it? (He genuinely looks shocked.) If your body has quit, these papers will make sure they let you just go. But if you just have a hard time, they can resuscitate you as many times as you need. If they do it once, and you come back, then we know you needed to be here. If it happens again, and they get you back, then we will know it’s time for you to go, and so they won’t do it again the third time because your body will just decide. (He looks exasperated. She just starts crying again.)
C14: (When both are silent for a moment, I use the opportunity to clarify a few pieces. I explain the difference between “DNR” and an “Advanced Directive”, and do stress the emphasis that the Advanced Directive is explicitly to state the patient’s wishes while she can declare them. I explain the three choices of some, nothing, or everything in each of the three scenarios, and let them look at the paper. Husband continues avoidance behaviors, while patient is trying hard to confront her own dying process and voice her preferences that she knows her husband will have to watch play out.) These are hard things to talk about, for sure, but putting them on paper helps communicate what you want clearly to the care team. So as you decide what you need on these issues, then you don’t have to worry about those pieces anymore and we can talk about other things.
H14: (Husband stills, finally stops his pacing, and turns to his wife quietly.) I know you don’t want to be a vegetable. No one would want that. We have talked about this our whole life, and especially since (niece) was in that accident on Halloween. No one wants to end up like that. So we don’t want you just on machines, but you don’t want to be hungry, right? You want some nutrition, yeah?
P15: I haven’t eaten for weeks. I’m not hungry. I just want to go. (Patient isn’t crying now, just looking at him directly.)
H15: (Husband starts to cry.) I don’t want to let you go. (He reaches for her hand, and they cry together for some time. I am quiet and still, except for when I see them get sniffly and I fetch them some tissues. They are quiet, then, for a long time.)
P16: (Patient speaks softly.) Listen to me. I don’t want to endure anymore. I just want to be with you, and then let go. I don’t want more interventions, or them to break my ribs like you had to do with your cousin waiting on that ambulance that day. It’s my time. This is it. I want to go.
H16: You don’t even want this one, with some help, so you can get nutrition and what your body needs?
P17: My body needs to go.
H17: (Husband makes a goofy grin, then, while wiping her tears with a tissue.) Go? Go where? Go the way of the earth? Or go the way of the Mormons?
P18: (Patient laughs.) Hush. (She turns to me.) Don’t worry about him. He’s just teasing me. I grew up Mormon, and he don’t go to church.
H18: I go to God’s church, out in the fields and the prairies, and conversate with God that way. I don’t think God’s got a problem with that. (He pats his wife’s hands, and she smiles and tosses a tissue at him, and he stands up to stretch his back against the wall.)
C19: (Looking at husband) God worked pretty hard on the Earth, it seems to me, so I am sure He appreciates you appreciating it. I love to be outside, too, and there’s a lot of conversations with God that happen in my garden! (Husband laughs.) (Looking at wife.) Is there a Bishop or an Elder or someone you would like me to call for you?
P19: No, I haven’t been to church in years. He hasn’t ever been. He doesn’t need anybody, and I wouldn’t know who to call. A blessing sure would be nice, though, but I guess it’s too late for that.
H20: If we are talking church now, I am going to work. (Kissed his wife on the top of the head, and tipped his cap to me.)
P20: He’s a truck driver now that he is retired. He won’t be back until Wednesday or Thursday, probably. I think he is worked up about all this because he can’t get off work and he knows one day he will go to work and I will be gone and he won’t know.
C21: Are you concerned about that?
P21: I don’t have anybody. We don’t have children. Our cousins are all gone now, and my one niece died last fall, like we told you, and it’s just been hard, going through this with him gone.
C22: What pieces of not having anybody has been hard for you?
P22: Being alone, for one thing. Him being away and so not being here to see how bad things really are, that’s another thing. He didn’t want to go to church so maybe I shouldn’t have married him, but I did, so now I don’t have my church, either. But I never forgot the things I learned there or how I felt there, so I still pray. I guess that’s not all the way alone.
C23: Being away from church doesn’t mean the church is gone, though. How have you felt the church as a part of you still, or God still with you when you pray or think about those memories of church?
P23: I remember what is true. I know what is true. I remember how I felt for blessings, or that I could always pray and ask for help.
C24: Would you like to pray now? (Patient nodded, and asked me to pray. I prayed for comfort and for her husband’s travels and for help knowing what to do for end of life care. I prayed about knowing we are not alone, using the reference that we know He promised never to leave us or forsake us.)
P24: Thank you.
C25: Anytime. (Patient appeared sleepy, worn out after the visit and emotions of the experience, so I started to excuse myself.) I will be here all day today, so you let me know if there’s anything else we can do for you, okay?
P25: Is it still Sunday?
C26: Yes.
P26: Is it too late to get Sacrament somehow?
C27: It’s never too late.
P27: I would like that. A blessing, too, if you really can find someone.
C28: I have their number, and we can call them to come see you today.
P28: Thank you so much. Thank you. I don’t feel afraid anymore, and if I am not going to be afraid, then I guess I better get ready. I hope He remembers me! (Patient laughs.)
C29: Remember? He promised, “I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49)
P29: (Patient smiles, wiping her eyes again, and waving me goodbye.)

4. THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS: The fact that the patient grew up LDS was a surprise to me, and did not come into play until the very end of the encounter. I never shared with her that I am LDS, until the second visit when the Bishop brought her sacrament and gave a blessing. I wondered at her story, of choosing between her church and her man, and what that must have been like for her. I also never got the story behind their private joke, other than the allusion to the pioneers. It seems like they have a history of banter about it.

5. SOCIOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS: This couple appeared to be lower middle class, based on language use and appearances. I could tell the man had worked very hard his whole life, and could tell she had worked hard to love him well. In a later visit, she shared about her “housekeeping years”, raising her children on a farm while her husband worked the farm and fixed tractors for extra income. She spoke of the struggle to feed her children, trading eggs for other food stuffs, and being isolated out on the farm away from town. I wondered at how those long years prepared her now to be so very alone while dying, as her husband couldn’t afford to be off work to stay with her. She later said he is able to come visit her for two days every ten days, and alluded to her children not visiting her and her sadness about this. We did not get enough time together for her to open up about this yet, but it might be an area I would explore if future visits presented.

6. PSYCHOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS: This couple had a very intense dynamic. There were at times the husband was very forceful and I wondered if she really has a voice in their relationship, or if she wants ones, or how she presents her voice. At first, I even wondered if he was abusive to her. Yet I also saw she stood up to him when it was important to her, and even then did so in a way to bring him to understand her rather than standing up against him. They were able to work their way full circle back to being united again, with him understanding her and her feeling understood.

7. INCLUSIVE REFLECTIONS: I was uncomfortable with the husband at first. I could handle how he treated me, and am already experienced with that dynamic both clinically and now at the VA. But I was very uncomfortable with how he spoke and interacted with his wife, and I was relieved in the end to see she could hold her own. This was interesting because I recently had a case at the VA where a man verbally attacked me for being a woman preacher, and another chaplain felt strongly about coming to my defense. That surprised me at the time, but now I felt it myself with this patient when her husband was being rough verbally. I wondered about her wanting Sacrament after so long of not having it, and wondered at her preparation for receiving it. It was a gentle reminder to me of it being a gift from Heavenly Father, not something I “take” (English).

8. ANALYSIS OF PASTORAL CARE: This interaction felt like another dance to me, a careful one of waiting long enough to see how they worked things out themselves instead of discounting their process by interrupting, and also advocating for the patient and her decisions (because the Advanced Directive is what she wants, not what someone else says). When she did disclose a faith tradition, I tried to follow-up on it as I would any other faith tradition, but I was glad I had already done the work to find which number of what actual person to call for the Sacrament and a blessing. This was done already, though, because of the incident of needing the Catholic priest quickly after that recent death of an infant, and not having the number, so I had gathered the numbers for the ready that night. Now I was glad I had! Since I had a 24 hour shift, I did go back one more time later, the next day, for a third visit before leaving my shift.

9. PASTORAL OPPORTUNITY: I was able to be a present advocate, listening to the couple as they shared and as they moved themselves through grief, without jumping in to do their grief work for them. I was able to contact the Bishop assigned to this hospital to have the Sacrament brought to her. I was able to connect her to God by helping her know she was not forgotten. I also tried to acknowledge her husband’s worship in “God’s creation”, and make sure that his efforts and participation were not discounted just because they were a different style than his wife’s.

10. SPECIFIC ASSISTANCE YOU NEED: I wonder what role does conflict play in helping us move forward in faith? Several of my patients on this particular shift involved families arguing, sometimes loudly, and once security needing to be called. I wondered what “conflict” in me or my family could be moving me forward, and thought of how hard it was to care for my parents before they died – but how much easier the practical pieces of parenting are because of that experience that so prepared me. I later read this day about the idea that sometimes we have to have “setbacks” to be “set up” for progress, that what sometimes feels like a set-up (as in a trick) in life because it is too hard is really something that we need for salvation (like an arrow being pulled back so that it can be propelled forward).

#CPE Sermon 1: Hebrews 10:19-25 with Exodus 29

Boldly Approach

When was the last time you were worn out? How many of you here are sick of being sick? What about the kind of weariness that is more than just being tired, the kind that comes after a lifetime of hard work, that comes after a lifetime of serving this great nation, that comes after fighting with your body just to be able to live and breathe and have your being? What about emotional weariness, the kind that comes after a lifetime of hard experiences, after grief that rips out your heart, or after losses too great to be spoken? What about this weariness, the kind of weariness that hurts in your bones and leaves you numb to the world around you?

The most weary I have ever been was after my mother was killed in a car accident just a year after my father lost his long battle with cancer. That was a heavy grief, and it made me weary to the bones. I loved my parents. They both worked at the VA my whole life: my father was a computer guy, and my mother ran the library. They worked here because they loved our veterans, and because their parents were veterans. The experience of losing both my parents so close together did something to me that exhausted me. It made me weary in a way beyond just a need for sleep. I was worn out emotionally, numbed mentally, and spiritually drained. There were no more questions to ask my God, and no more answers to be found. I could skim the scriptures, and I could sit in silent prayer, but there were no more words in me. There was nothing more, it felt like, nothing more in me to give.

In the New Testament, we can find a people who knew what it meant to be weary. Those early Jewish Christians were so weary that they had fallen into a kind of lethargy, full of doubt and disillusionment. The apostle Paul was worried about them, and wrote them a sermon-letter to remind them of their faith, to remind them of who they were, to remind them of the service they were called to continue – even when they were weary. This was the hope he had to offer them, the reminder of who they were and what purpose they had and the strength God would give them as they needed it. He reminded them about the benefits of the priestly sacrifice. Just when they feel like they have nothing left to give, just when they would rather call it quits and go home (back to Judaism), Paul calls them to draw near, to go deeper, to draw closer to each other and to the Savior.

We read this sermon in Hebrews 10. It was written to encourage Jewish believers, who saw the Savior as fulfilling the Law of Moses. Paul uses temple references and metaphors to explain the Savior’s role. These Jewish Christians already had an understanding from the Law of Moses that nothing unholy can be in the presence of God, and that approaching God requires a blood sacrifice. These believing Jews understood that the Savior was a substitutionary sacrifice so that the people could approach God. They also knew that only the priest, according to laws and following cleansing rituals, could approach God in the “holy place” (holy of holies).

In the Old Testament, we can look back to understand what these Jewish believers would have already understood. We read in Exodus 29 about the rites of consecration for the priesthood. First there is a purification process, by which the priests were washed, anointed, and clothed in priestly garments (verses 4-10). But even with this purification, the priests were mortal human beings who sometimes made mistakes or got sick or choose poorly. This left, even with priests, the problem of sin, which meant that they had to offer sacrifices for themselves before they could even offer sacrifices for the people. “This, therefore, was what was next provided; and through an entire series of sacrifices and offerings they were conducted as from the depths of guilt and condemnation to what indicated their possession of a state “of blessed peace and most friendly intercourse with God” (Fairbairn).

We read the pattern of this sin-offering (verses 10-15), the burnt-offering (verses 15-19), and the peace-offering (verses 19-22). These three offerings, made on seven consecutive days, were very important because this is what made it possible for the priests to be able to access God. In those days, the people were dependent on the priests for their access to God! The people, as well as the priests, needed these offerings! The sin-offering removed the guilt of the priests, and the burnt-offering surrendered their wills again to God, and the peace offering of the “the ram of consecration” (verse 22) consecrated the priests again to service in their office. Following this, there was a meal of the sacrifice, symbolic of the priestly restoration – which also meant the restoration of the people’s access to God (verse 31-35).

This brings us to the Jewish Christians in the New Testament book of Hebrews, who are so weary that their hands are “drooping” and their knees are “weak” (12:12). They are weary enough that they are on the verge of giving up both faith and practice. When Paul preaches to them, he isn’t just trying to encourage them. He is telling them they do not have to go back to the old ways of waiting for someone else to give them access to God because they already have it. Paul is teaching them, reminding them, exhorting them to remember that Jesus is the fulfillment for these types (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, their guilt has been removed (sin-offering), and they can offer themselves to God (burnt-offering), and they are at-one with Him (peace offering). They are themselves consecrated to God, with full capacity to access Him, and even boldly approach Him through the Savior.

Paul has told them, in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. This is echoed in chapter 10 verse 19: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus…” Why can we have such boldness? Verse 20 says, “by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh…” This is the new way for Jewish believers, who do not need to go back to waiting on priests to be consecrated for them. They have a new high priest: the Savior. Verse 21 reads, “and having an high priest over the house of God;” He is the high priest, and He was sacrificed, and we are consecrated because of Him! Because of what the Savior has done for us, we can boldly approach our God.

Verse 22 continues: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” This heart-sprinkling is not a baptism by sprinkling, but a reference to those old priestly ways during their work at the altar. It says there, that before that heart-sprinkling can happen, before consecration comes, we are already washed – immersed – baptized – with pure water. We are baptized, and given the gift of the Holy Ghost, and by this we are set apart as holy – despite our own unworthiness, despite our uncleanliness, despite our mistakes and weakness and sins. We are made holy, and given permission to boldly approach our God.

This is where the Jewish Christians got lost, being focused on failures and shortcomings and how hard it was to be a Jewish Christian at that time. Paul was not denying their difficulty, but urging the people to take their difficulty to God. Paul was not telling them to put on fake Pollyanna smiles and pretend life was easy and cheery; he was telling them to take their difficulties to God, who was the only one who could really help them. Paul was not telling them to pretend they were not tired, or worn out, or weary; he was reminding them that they have access to strength greater than their own!

When Paul says, “let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” (verse 23), he reminds us that life being hard doesn’t mean surrendering our faith. Paul doesn’t argue with us about how tired we are, or call us wimps for being worn out, or bark at us to step it up while ignoring our own struggles. Paul simply calls us to remember that even when we have nothing left to give, even then God is still faithful to accomplish all He has promised. He says to the Philippians (1:6, NKJ): “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…” Be confident, he says! Not in ourselves, or in worldly ways, but confident that He will accomplish the work He has begun in our lives!

And if we know that our Father-in-Heaven is faithful to us, we find strength to be faithful to Him. If he has set us apart as priests to each other, ministers to each other, after the example of our Savior, then we look to see what we can do for those around us. This is not adding to our overwhelming checklist of things to do, but the way that we live focused on God and His will for our lives rather than our own personal agenda. Verse 24 says: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good work…”

What can we do to lift up those around us? What do we do when we notice the weak knees and drooping arms of our neighbors? We are commanded, for starters, not to give up. Don’t give up, he says, meeting with each other in our regular meetings, because we need each other. He says in verse 25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Together, we may boldly enter the presence of God, even as we prepare for the second coming of our Savior.

Because of the Savior, as the priest and as the sacrifice, we may approach boldly (verse 19), sincerely (verse 22), and confidently (verse 22). We approach God through prayer (see also Hebrews 4:16). There is a pattern in that we can approach because of what Jesus did for us (Hebrews 10:19-20), which places Him in the priestly role (Hebrews 10:21; see also 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 7:24-25). “It is by the sacrifice of Christ that we have the right of access to the presence of God. And it is by the infinite love of God manifested in that sacrifice that we have confidence in availing ourselves of this right. In a word, this great privilege has been obtained for us through the mediation of our Lord and Savior” (Jones 2015). In the same way, as are able to boldly approach, we must also serve others (Hebrews 10:24-25). There is another parallel in that the priest approached for the community, and now our community may approach together (Hebrews 10:25). We may boldly approach the Father because of what the Savior has done. Paul has challenged us to be faithful as He is faithful, by caring for others as He has cared for us – even when we are weary.

“Let us boldly approach.”

Father-in-Heaven,

We boldly approach thy throne of grace this morning, weary from our struggles, weary from our sickness, weary from our weakness. We call upon Thee for strength, for comfort, and for sustenance, that our spirits may be nourished and that we may have peace.

This we ask for, in the name of Thy Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ,

Amen.

Friday Night

It is a rare weekend with no pager for any hospital anywhere.

Being on call at three hospitals has been insane, and I am excited to almost be finished with one of them as the semester closes.

On the other hand, a new semester has begun. It is my last semester for the Master of Divinity, but I have no summer classes for my post-doc.  With only one grad school and only one hospital (plus ER weekends), it will be world’s easier than last semester was. I am relieved, and look forward to all of it finishing in September.

I went to the eye doctor today, and they found an abnormality that may be causing the red eyes. There may be a growth, which they want to be sure is not malignant, or a clot, or a blockage of some kind, somewhere behind my eyes. I go back on Monday for more tests.

Tonight I was thrilled to see my kids again after being away yesterday, and pushed research papers and journal article submissions to the side while we played.  I tried not to think about how much I could get done while Nathan was at symphony rehearsal, and just played with the kids.

Then we got to work! School is out in three weeks, which I can’t believe, so I need to transition them to our summer routine. I went to the library and got one of our bags we love!  They are whole units on tons of topics, and availability switches out and you get to keep them for a week. The kids loved them last summer as we did home school on the mornings I could, so I wanted to remind them as we get ready.  I picked a preschool math one, so there would be things the sixes needed and things the toddlers could do:

   
  
When they finished, they got to play outside, because that’s what they do for summer home school.  When it was time for the babies to go down, we had our study and then the sixes worked on puzzles while I bathed the younger three and got them down.

   

 

When it was time for family movie night, we watched an educational video about African-American culture, while eating sweet potato cake.

  
All this wore them out enough that bedtime was easy, so we did prayers and tucked them in – I posted this while waiting on them to brush teeth.

Now I have maybe a half hour to work on notes from sessions this week, before Nathan comes home.

My homework will wait until four in the morning, when I get up to tackle it before the kids wake up.  It will be another season of that for a few weeks, but I want to get the big stuff done quickly so I don’t lose my whole summer (especially since I lost last summer).

We are keeping tomorrow easy and private, a resting day without family or visitors, my only day off at home in weeks and for more weeks to come.  We need time together to just play, and to rest, and to keep working on attachment as we all bond with the new boys.  It’s too soon to venture out, and I am grateful for the rest.

Eyeballs

Even though I want to blame the Baby-Toddler for sneezing in my face, my eye infections have been occurring about every five weeks instead of only a couple times a year when I am sick as in the past.  

So something is wrong somewhere, and not just the Oklahoma wind.

This is more than a painful frustration, though it does hurt so bad, like someone is sitting on my eyeball and then scraping it with sandpaper and then shoving in pushpins, too.  I work with kids and in hospitals, and it makes people freak out because they assume it’s pink eye (it’s not), so they don’t want to touch me or sometimes won’t let me work.  But it’s not contagious and I can work, after the second day or so, if I can handle the light, but it’s getting to be a real hassle, this eyeball business.

I have twice missed the day I was going to visit teach, can’t write cards anymore, and barely can look at the screen long enough to type (which is terrible timing since my final semester has just started).  I am slow on my homework because my eyes hurt too bad to read, and sometimes just have to listen to the app that reads my scriptures to me.  I even missed a day of work this week, which was fun to spend with Nathan and Anber, but painful and annoying and means I lost part of my weekend with no pager.

My doctor says this is the side effect of miracles: when my body has been through what it has with heart stuff, and the lung problems it caused, and surgeries for cochlear implants, and then Cancer, so many parts are missing or not working that things just don’t run smoothly like they used to.

Classy. I am pretty sure he called me sick and old. And maybe weird.

I am alive, but my body doesn’t exactly work right, and when something goes wrong, it gets complicated fast.

Even in my eyeballs.

The good news is that we have money left on our flex card for regular kinds of doctor stuff, so we are going to see the eye doctor tomorrow!

Because this is making me crazy:

  
I also have a cough that won’t go away, but who doesn’t in Oklahoma this time of year? I mean, really?!  And I have some bruising that has also been annoying, so my regular doctor is taking labs early just to be sure everything is okay.

In the meantime, I have learned to walk from my office to the car with my eyes closed, drive with one eye, and take my shower without actually looking.  I can text with my eyes closed, get some of my textbooks on audiobook, and am used to getting ready for work in the dark anyway.  I haven’t texted much in days, maybe weeks? Because I can’t see!  And it hurts!

But I miss writing.

That’s the hardest.

I will post my latest sermon, though, just to keep my nerd up, so you can watch for that.

You know, if you can even open your eyes long enough to read something.

(P.S. I typed this blog with a new app that types what I dictate, so my apologies for any errors I couldn’t see to catch!)

Temple Date

Anber came home with a fever yesterday, as she does from allergies every time it rains, and so could go to school today, and my eye got one of its awesome infections:

 
So after the fever broke and my eye drops were working, but neither of us could go to work or school but not sick exactly, we decided to take a late temple date while we could.

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  


   

  

    

      

Chaplain Words

If I were a writer,
I would write the things I see.

If I were a writer,
the words would pour out of me.
I would tell the stories of all I see.

If I were a writer,
I wouldn’t mind
to sit and write
all the words I find.

I would find the words
on the grey cloudy day I see,
to paint the people I walk past
and who walk past me.

There is a man who sits alone on the sidewalk in his wheelchair
outside in the cold
with his brown sweater over him,
covering his head but without a hood,
the back of the sweater stretched over his head
the way a little child would could.

The old native building shadows over him,
painted brown and beige
(fainter than before)
with new tents on the lawn
waiting for people to come once more.

A tall black man thin as bone
with scars on his face and neck
walks toward his treatment
of pain and pill,
of buying days,
of considering if it’s worth it still.

If I were a writer,
I would tell you of the birds I hear
and how bright are the leaves.

I would tell you the shadow that hospice is
in Springtime.

If I were a writer,
I would tell you how the staff scatter like ants at lunch time,
while men wait in their beds
and wives chatter outside about how their husbands are fine.

If I were a writer,
I would paint purple flowers in the green
and sing the songs our Earth feels.

I walk through long dark nights
when the halls are filled with ghosts
and not a living creature stirs.
The silence is echoed by beeping machines turned off
and tubes pulled out
and tears waiting behind an uncomfortable cough.

If I were a writer,
I would tell you what it means
to offer comfort
for Comfort Measures Only
when no comfort can be given.

If I were a writer,
I would tell you how walking away
is walking home.

If I were a writer,
I would tell of what it means
to choose to do less
in order to live more,
to trade intervention
for peace.

I would tell you what it means to have no choice,
like being with my children or feeding them,
that is this chaplain’s life.

I would tell you what it means to have to choose,
to keep the dead alive
or let go so the dead may live.

If I were a writer,
the words would flow on the page
the way the flag flaps in the breeze
declaring freedom to all who come here to die
and know they will live again.

If I were a writer,
there would be letters like stars
and lines like stripes
white and red.

I am like the flag,
battered and torn and cut off from its pole,
but left there
still flying in the wind.

They are the wind,
and when they fly away,
I can feel them in my hair.

If I were a writer,
I could give you all the words in my head,
and those words would feed my family
and I would raise the dead.