27 June 2006

wedding update

Invitations went out late last week.

Caterer, florist, cake person are all lined up and ready to go.

We meet with the priest this Saturday. While Steve is here, we'll sample some restaurants for our rehearsal dinner.

We've made arrangements for a family picnic on the day after, at the estate/park owned by our college (free to alumni!) Still need to sort out the food for that and send invitations.

Dress has been in my closet since December. Must finish the little alterations I'm doing -- adding hook-and-eye closures for extra security.

Steve bought the rings we picked out a couple months ago. And booked the rooms we wanted for our four days in the wilds of New Hampshire. Such a nice boy.

Gifts for the people helping us are mostly ready.

So we're getting married! 68 days left!

24 June 2006

now that'll blog

I'm mostly over my peevishness. But there was a fantastic part of that dynamic that I have to share.

In the morning, after I had spent about 4 hours total with the mother and sisters of the patient, his uncle returned to say goodbye. He spent some time with his nephew and then (within two feet of me) said to the mother, "Where is the priest?"

Now, I was a little taken aback and didn't say or do anything. But this lady turned her head around and said quite politely but with emphasis, "This is the priest."

And I said to myself, Good on you, sister!

Now that'll blog. :)

23 June 2006


Well, I can understand it, but it still was super aggravating. There's only one Catholic priest at our hospital, and he is available during the day. I was called to see a patient and his family because death was imminent. I saw them and explained that the priest was not available and that the patient had received anointing by the priest (what is often called last rites). I prayed with them and was able to offer some comfort.

So it was a bit of a shocker that after I left, two of the family members went to a nurse and said that they were not satisfied and wanted to see a male priest. Then, some fool of a doctor tells them that there is a priest available to them. After an hour, I'm paged again and have to tell the family that this is not the case, and that the patient has received the sacraments of the church.

I am not a priest. I am not Catholic. I am not a man. Ergo, I am not good enough (for some).

Sometimes, I just want to spit. Pah. And then I do my best to be of comfort when they need me.

(There is a more enjoyable aspect of this saga, which I will post later.)

19 June 2006

thoughts on mortality

I have seen more death & dying in the last two weeks than ever in my life. (This is not exactly surprising, since I had never seen anyone actually die before.) I don't know what, precisely, I expected, but I have learned a lot about my understanding of death.

We are all going to die. This is the single, unavoidable truth of human life. However we might understand what is to come after, our lives end. Our breath ceases. We die.

But, we can choose how we approach death, for ourselves and for the people we love. Dying can happen in many ways. The loss will affect us regardless, but the death can be approached generously. There will always be pain and regret that we carry with us, but we have a choice about how much grace we're willing to accept.

There are many ways of dying, and just as many ways of letting a person die. As for me, I want to be at peace with death when he comes for me. I want my family to love me, miss me, but also to let grace in to ease the pain of loss. I want to die peacefully, rather than in fear and struggle.

For some families, because of circumstances, this is not possible. There are wounds and divisions that have not been healed. There are dreams and plans that cannot, if death comes, be realized. There are words that cannot be taken back, or cannot be said. When things remain undone, both the dying and those left behind find it much harder to let go. Death seems final, as if we lose all chance of reconciliation.

For myself, death is not the end of life. It is the end of this life, but it is not as if a door slams shut. Even faced with death, we can still express the grief and regrets that shadow our hearts. We can say goodbye and God speed. We can forgive and be forgiven. Death seems final to us because it is the end of what we know, but, for people of Christian faith, death holds the promise of life to come.

10 June 2006

the first week review

As many of you know, I am in CPE this summer. This means I am working in an institutional setting doing ministry under supervision and with reflection/learning. I am at a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical hospital with specialization in transplants, cardiac issues, and complicated medical issues. It is not a trauma center, and the demographic served is widely varied, but predominantly people with some resources. Although routine medical issues are treated, the majority of the patients come to this hospital after receiving care at other facilities because they require highly specialized care. The hospital has 1,500 full-time salaried physicians two major locations with more than 100 medical specialties and subspecialties. In 2005, 2.7 million patients came for treatment from every state and 100 countries. My facility operates at 98% of capacity on any given day and covers several city blocks.

My group is super-fantastic and my supervisor is also really wonderful. The tone is friendly, caring and without hostility, so I won't have a summer that becomes a CPE horror story. I have 3 units: adolescent psychiatry, pediatrics (general), and internal medicine; and one night on-call each week, where I'm in the hospital over night and respond to codes, crisis intervention pages, and deaths for the entire facility. My first on-call night was Thursday, and I had a training chaplain with me. We were pretty slow and he was tired, so I told him to go up to his on-call room and I would call him if I needed his assistance. It picked up briskly after that, and I was busy all night long, but I never felt out of my depth.

It was my favorite part of the experience so far, I guess because I felt like I made a difference. Day to day I make rounds and visit with patients, but the night is intense and my role seemed very clear (to me). I started off with praying with a family waiting for a surgical outcome, followed by a crisis intervention, went to a code (working primarily with the family; patient X was stabilized), went to a code where there was no family and the patient was transferred to ICU, went to another crisis intervention, responded to a second code for patient X (helped the family, who were continuing to arrive; patient was stabilized and taken to radiology for tests), while I was getting hotel information for the family that had driven in, patient X coded again in the CT scan room. The medical personnel could not get a normal rhythm and the patient died. I stayed with the family afterwards. Then, I reponded to another page in ICU, followed by a visit to a family after a death. I returned to the ICU to be with the mother of patient Y, who was undergoing a procedure.

In the middle of that (in the same ICU), I was with a family as a patient who had been taken off life support died. I had prayed with them and was reading from the psalms when the patient died and the nurse turned off the monitors. I remained for a short time, but they were not surprised and had time to prepare. After they had cried a little, they mostly relied on one another for comfort and didn't need me anymore. So, I returned to the mother of patient Y. As the patient's condition deteriorated, I went into the procedure room where the doctors made room for me so that I could give the patient a benediction. The mother wanted to know whether her child seemed tired, whether it was time, so I went because the medical work being done would have completely overwhelmed her. I reassured her about the decision to stop compressions, which had gone on for 1 hour, and held her while she cried and grieved and demanded to know why her child was dead. I sat with her and the patient afterwards and helped her contact the family and their pastor in another state and break the news to those who arrived afterwards.

I made pre-op rounds early in the morning and responded to another crisis intervention before handing off the on-call pager at 8am. It was a busy night, but I wasn't overwhelmed or afraid or confused. I did what was needed and I was able to help in the darkest moments of someone's life. I couldn't bring their children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, or husbands back. I couldn't make everything okay again. I couldn't work miracles. But I could be there to support these families, to hold their hands while we prayed, to give them comfort in their pain and loss, to hold them while they cried in joy or sorrow, to hear about the lives their loved ones had lived, to listen to the regrets for things unsaid or for angry words that could not be taken back, and to ease tensions between family members.

I was there. And that made all the difference, even though it did nothing to change the outcome.

And it has made all the difference in me.