Chocolate Chip or Oatmeal Raisin?

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. This business of living life causes one to prioritize those things that are needs vs. wants, and also those things that are must do vs. don’t have to do. For a while there, I was posting frequently. I felt I had things to say and this was the only outlet I had found in which to say them. And then I realized I began searching for things to post about. What part of my day is “post-worthy?” What will people find interesting about what I am saying?

It was then I realized I wasn’t letting life happen, I was working too hard and trying to make something happen just so I could write about it. That was not a good thing. So I decided to back off for a while, and concentrate on the things I should be doing…family…work…ministry…living my life. My life is not wrapped up in how succinctly I can encapsulate my experiences into a blog post. My life is something to be experienced, and occasionally shared, if the circumstances are right for it. What is my point in all this? I realized I was too wrapped up in this internet world, and not wrapped up enough in the real world.

But as I sat here tonight, having taken care of a few essential kid-related tasks, following up on emails, and winding down my day, I saw the link for my blog site on the Favorites Bar. Hmmm, I haven’t posted in a long time. Now is as good a time as any. Lots has been going on, so, sure, go for it. I know, not the most motivational of inner dialogues, but it did the trick. And now the big question…WHAT DO I WRITE ABOUT????

This week for me has just not been…good. It started out wrong and got progressively worse. Relatively speaking, that is. No one in my immediate family died, or got sick, or lost a job. My kids and spouse are all fine, healthy and, per the usual, annoying when they want to be. I had a check up this week and I’m healthy as well. The car hasn’t broken down, the bills are all paid, and the cats are still alive. For all intents and purposes, life is good. So what’s the problem, you ask? As I come to the end of my week, I feel like I have just lost confidence in the world at large. Wait, let me amend that. I’ve lost confidence in my part of the world, in the people in my part of the world, and, I fear, maybe people in general (although I sincerely hope this is not the case, and I am just generalizing).

I learned on Sunday that our pastor will not be attending an important youth gathering next summer with our kids. The trip requires both male and female chaperones and now that he is not attending, we have to search for another guy to fill that role. This is not an easy task, considering it requires taking a week off of work (if that person has a job), and being responsible for 3-4 male youth. The pastor fits the bill perfectly because a) this is part of his job; and b) he doesn’t have to take time off of work. But alas, it is not to be. And while I could go into the stated reasoning for the inability to attend, let’s just say it is strikingly similar to the oft quoted, “because I said so,” argument parents give their children.

The second nail in the coffin of my lack of confidence came when I sat with an older patient who had just had brain surgery. This patient is over the age of 85, and a brain tumor was discovered only after doing a test to rule out damage after a fall. A doctor felt surgery would be beneficial, and now that this patient is post-surgery, mood, behavior and cognitive ability are drastically reduced, possibly to the point of no recovery. I am so angry about this! This person was kind, a bit quirky, and just a sweet older person, and after surgery is now angry, yelling, frustrated, and no longer oriented to person, time or place. “They” say things might get better, but a well respected doctor has also said the patient should be on hospice. SAY WHAT?!? Again, I am so angry! It was an egregious error in judgement to institute performing that surgery (in my opinion). Without surgery, life expectancy would not have been longer than 10 or so years. Does the surgery increase that life expectancy? Of course not! But instead of allowing for natural progression of something which had, up until that point, been undiscovered and not causing any significant impairment, this person’s mood, demeanor and personality are completely changed. It is unsure at this point whether or not this patient will even recover enough to be able to eat or walk independently. I am so angry about this!!

And then there’s my concern with my child’s future. College planning, financial aide…can it be happening already? We are on a journey so many others have taken, but it is foreign to us and we are clueless. The government says we should be helping our child with paying for college, and we make too much money for this child to get a good amount of financial aide. Are we supposed to work solely for putting our kids through school? What about retirement? What about paying off my own student loans from my graduate degree I received just a few short years ago? Have we failed our youth because it’s either mom/dad paying for school or the child ending up with years worth of debt. It’s all weighing on my mind, and while I feel like scrunching my eyes closed and forgetting it all, before I know it, my kid will be graduating and the crap will really hit the fan. Ugh.

And then there’s the country’s difficulties, with hurricanes, neo-nazi rallies, pardons, travel bans, and investigations. I feel as if our culture has digressed several decades, and we’ve forgotten that we are all one people…yes, PEOPLE. How can we continue to be people, if we think each person is somehow different from us? The same blood, the same bones, the same muscles. We are all the same, but with different spirits. The outsides are unique, our spirits are unique, but what makes us people – God’s people – is the same. Food nourishes us all the same way. We breathe the same air. We are all born, and we will all die. But I sit in my corner of the world and feel sometimes as if we are a hopeless people. I try not to let these negative beliefs interfere in my life and ministry, but I cannot deny they exist in the larger world.

So…I’ve been thinking about all of this…the youth trip, my patient, my kid’s college plans, the anger, violence, discrimination, and natural disasters…and of course I’m forgetting that in the midst of all of this, my God is there. He’s just waiting for me to look up from my concerns, and realize it. Just waiting for me to say, “Oh yes, you haven’t left. You know how all of this will be taken care of.” Why do I think I need to figure it all out on my own? Why do I have to have the shoulders to carry the weight of the world?

The power of prayer cannot be scientifically proven. There is no way to measure just how many prayers it takes to “make” something happen. But I know prayer does work, because God wants to hear from His children. He wants to hear what is troubling us, causing us pain, or what is causing us to stumble. He can fix it all, but first we have to want things to be fixed. We have to admit we cannot do it on our own, and that we need help. Like the small child who thinks they can reach the cookie in the cookie jar, but instead knocks it to the floor and everything breaks, we are that child. We are reaching for the cookie – the sweet treat of goodness, compassion, peace, joy, and love – but we need that little extra oomph in getting there. That’s where God comes in. He’s the master baker with the never-ending supply of the sweetest treats there are.

God’s peace to you all.

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Resurrection or Chocolate Eggs?

For those of us who are Christian, this past weekend has (hopefully) been one of reflection, contemplation and rejoicing. Christ’s sacrifice for us was the single most important thing anyone has ever done for humanity, and it calls on us to continue in His wake, spreading this Gospel and being kind and loving to our neighbors. For those of you who are Christian, I hope you had a blessed Easter week and a peaceful Easter celebration Sunday. May Christ’s resurrection restore you in ways only God can provide.

For those of you not Christian, this past weekend may have been about chocolate eggs, jelly beans, family dinners, or maybe nothing out of the ordinary at all. Whatever you did to fill your time, I hope it was joyful, relaxing, and you were able to find some peace.

I hold no illusions that everyone celebrates these “religious” holidays as I do. Heck, I even said as much at one point during our worship service, as I contemplated how this country seems to cater to Christianity, but not to other religions. I have no idea how we got this way, but, here we are. But because I am a Christian, I want to offer my well wishes to everyone else, because in doing that, I feel more joyful, more peaceful, and more fulfilled.

Blessings to you all for great week, no matter what you are doing, who you are with, or where you are in your faith. I’m looking forward to jumping back into my work and sharing with you stories only a chaplain can tell.  Peace!

Really?

Walking into a new home every few days can be a daunting experience. Who will be there? What kind of place is it? Are they going to be “normal?” Do I have to take a shower and shake out my clothes once I walk out the door? Hundreds of questions run through my brain. Thankfully, I haven’t been in too many homes which require coveralls, booties and/or masks due to bug infestations, animal feces/urine or airborne illnesses. Those have been few and far between.

The things which catch me off guard more often than not tend to come to light during conversation. Take today’s for example. What started off as a somewhat normal chat quickly moved to the realm of not quite right when the wife of one of my patients was explaining to me her belief in how a certain race of people were created. She had received this knowledge from a grandparent many years ago, and wanted to share it with me, since it encompassed religious figures. To her, my being a chaplain meant I had to be interested, and because I had not been able to answer her question of, “Chaplain, do you know how _______ people were created?” she eagerly wanted to impart her knowledge to me.

What followed was the story of an Old Testament prophet, a drunken party, nudity, Jesus banishing someone to the desert and the eventual creation of said race. I was hoping my astonishment was not showing on my face, and I responded, “Thank you for sharing that with me.” As I looked around at each person sitting with me, it was clear they all believed the story and had heard it numerous times. I, on the other hand, was left wondering how something that was clearly taken out of context from scripture could be so misconstrued.

As conversation continued, it was clear there was a distinct difference in this family’s faith beliefs from my own. That is perfectly ok, mind you, I have no issue or concern with others beliefs. But sometimes I have serious concerns when said beliefs are coupled with other, more concrete or in the moment happenings. The totality of this visit included grave concern for a military happening which occurred today overseas, and the family’s interpretation of what that could mean for them. I felt the military action did not impact me directly, at least not in the immediate and literal sense, but this family spent time discussing it as is terrorists could be knocking on the door at any moment in retaliation. This realization hit me hard, and I understood once again how different people are.

I recognized that my faith beliefs are just different enough to where conversation with this family may turn toward an area that could cause discord. I decided then and there to limit the amount of information I would provide when questions are asked. For my health and safety, I need to keep my personal faith out of discussions. I am generally forthcoming when asked about my faith, because I feel honesty is better when forming a bond with patients. In this case though, I feel things would turn sideways quickly.

Every person should have the opportunity for support from others when they are faced with an illness and/or end of life issues. That is why I am there, and I am honored to be able to provide it. The practicality of it though is this: I have no idea what I am walking into when I enter a home, and I need to make sure I do the best I can for the patient I am seeing. Sometimes that means sharing more of myself when the time is right, and sometimes that means not sharing anything at all. Today was a time for the latter. I trust God will guide me through my patient visits, putting into my heart and mind exactly what I need to do to be a comfort to those I meet. Today’s comfort was about listening and affirming this family’s beliefs. Tomorrow’s may be about something all together different, and for that, I am thankful God will once again be with me.

Peace to you all!

Love and Marriage

Today was truly an eye opening day. So often, I feel like the lot of us – that is, people in general – just go about our lives, heads down in our cell phones or just down to avoid eye contact. We shy away from really seeing the world and making an effort to understand our neighbors, both in our communities and in the world. Until something directly impacts us, we are oblivious to others and their needs. Now, I know this seems like a blanket criticism, and in some ways I guess it is. But how much of an effort do we really make in getting to know those who are not in our families?

But let’s also realize that while we may not choose to get involved in the lives of others intimately, we are also closed off to others learning about ourselves. In a world of password protection and privacy fences, we are hardly inviting anyone into our lives. We offer to the world only what we choose to, in the form of Facebook postings, Snapchat, Instagram or Tweets, and the occasional conversation at church or the grocery store when we run into someone we know. Let’s face it, what we tell people or advertise on social media is rarely the messiness of life, it’s more like a movie trailer highlighting only the best parts.

So today I really got to understand how very little we truly understand about our friends and neighbors – Specifically in the area of marriage. In my area of work, I can easily fall into the trap of assuming a couple’s marriage is picture perfect, when in actuality, it is anything but. I succumbed to the “foot in mouth” disease with one couple where I make a comment such as, “You’ve been together for so long, you must really have had a wonderful life together.” In actuality, said couple couldn’t stand each other and the wife later told me out of earshot of her dying husband, “I can’t wait until he’s gone. My life has been hell for the past 40 years.” She went on to share that her husband never appreciated her for anything, including spending 10 years taking care of him when his health got bad. He never once said Thank You. So much for the assumption that 50 years of marriage were full of love and wedded bliss.

We can never know exactly what goes on inside a marriage, unless it is our own. We can think we know couples very well and there is nothing wrong in the relationship, when all of a sudden they are separated or getting a divorce. Gossip and speculation begins, but unless both parties are willing to share the details, we can only assume what happened. The messiness of marriage is usually well hidden. The gambling, shopping, or porn watching problem isn’t something advertised on the home mailbox for all to see. The affair with the nanny, secretary or coworker isn’t generally on display for the neighbors. Even worse, the physical abuse of spouse or children is usually so well hidden, something drastic like a death needs to occur before anyone realizes there was a problem.

Even if such drastic events have not occurred in a marriage, every day life is far from a bowl of cherries for the general population. Just think about your own. Do you really share with your coworkers or church friends that your spouse likes to yell a lot, or your mother-in-law despises your cooking? Do you reveal just how little monetary savings you have or that you are struggling to make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck? Do you tell your friends that your daughter or son got caught cheating on a test in school, or that you found pot in a bag under your child’s mattress? Of course not! Those are the intimate details we cannot share, because they make us seem less than perfect. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet a perfect person.

We are all messy in our own way. We all have things we hide from each other because we don’t want people to think less of us. Marriage is tough. Marriage is work. The love part is often the easiest. The day to day grind of living and caring for someone can test us in ways we never imagined, yet we all want everyone to believe it is so easy. My mess is not worse than yours. You don’t want my mess, and I don’t want yours. The thing is though, if we both knew about each other’s messiness, wouldn’t it be easier for us to help each other? Wouldn’t that foster a sense of empathy and compassion, which in turn would allow us to share strategies for supporting and healing? I think it would.

Today I learned that this loving couple I met, who had been married for well over half a century, really did mutually love each other at some point, but somehow over the years the relationship soured. No longer were both on the same page. Now, one person berates and verbally abuses the other, and has for longer than we could ever comprehend. Now there is only one person who still has compassion and caring for the other and is saddened to know that the death of the other is near. Both still put on a good show for the outside, making it seem as if everything is ideal.

I look at my own marriage and wonder what it will be like in the years to come. We have had our ups and downs, for sure. But I’m in it for the long haul, whatever happens. I just need to remind myself that it is work. I want to use every resource I can to make sure that what I am working for is going to last. My faith helps me in that regard, because just like my marriage, my relationship with God takes my efforts as well. Whether in marriage or with God, the love is there for the taking, I just have to want to take it. God’s peace be to all of you.

What’s in a plan?

Some might say that planning and organizing is the way to go. Others, not so much. For instance, is it better to plan our your day, or see where it takes you on its own once you set foot out the door. I mean, even if you plan everything down to the minute, what are the chances you’ll actually keep to that schedule, without the randomness of the day putting roadblocks up along the way? The random detour because of roadwork, or the line at the grocery store because there’s only one register open and someone is physically writing a check (yes, that happened to me the other day). Or the power goes out at home just as you were settling in to watch Frank and Gracie on Netflix (highly recommend it, I might add).

Is it really worth planning anything if we are just going to have those plans subverted by the unknown? More than that, I suppose it’s how we choose to react to these interferences. We can throw our hands up in frustration or we can shrug our shoulders in resignation. Neither will change circumstances, that’s for sure.

I have to say though, that I have come to the realization that planning does matter…for certain things. In fact, I feel it is truly important for these things. Specifically, planning for the end of your life. I know, you figured I’d get around to that eventually because, gee, this is a blog being written by a hospice chaplain. Duh! So I do feel end of life planning is important. And not so much so that we individually get what we want at the end of our lives, but so that those who love us have at least some basic understanding of how to get through it all.

We all float through our lives assuming that once we die, that’s it, case closed. For many though, that’s not it. There’s the physical body which still needs attending to. Where does it go? Who is responsible for it? I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the phone tracking down family for deceased person in a hospital morgue. Believe me, that’s not fun. It really makes you think about who in your life actually cares about you. Once you’ve called 5 people and no one is willing to provide a funeral, it really makes you wonder.

I mean, I don’t think that at the age of 30 you should be contacting a funeral home and making final arrangements, but at some point, it’s a worthy thing to accomplish. My husband and I have had our burial plots for at least the last 15 years, and, God willing, I’ll still be around for at least the next 30 years. We also have life insurance for ourselves and our children – each since they were born. Life takes unexpected twists and turns, and we decided we wanted to at least be prepared financially should anything happen.

But many people don’t do these things. They leave it up to others because it’s easier than thinking and taking responsibility. Just talk to any widow or widower who lost their spouse unexpectedly and had never had a conversation about death or prepared in any way. The cost of a burial or cremation is huge, and to have to think about all of that at a time when you’re in shock is devastating.

I’ve said this hundreds of times to my patients and their families: Death is a part of life. We can’t hide from it and we are getting closer to it each and every minute. Why not take the time we have to prepare – even in the smallest of ways – for what is inevitably going to happen. It can be a gift for those you leave behind, and it can bring a small measure of comfort to yourself, knowing you eased the burden once you’re gone. I pray each of you spends just a few moments thinking about those you love who will still be here, and how you felt when those you’ve loved have gone. Peace be to all of you.

Keep the past in the past

I can always tell how busy I am by how often I end up sitting here, writing a blog entry. Clearly, this week was so busy that I managed to only post twice. It’s not that I haven’t thought about posting, or even that I haven’t had things to say. For some reason, other things have gotten in the way. Mainly, sleep. By the time I finish everything I need to accomplish for the day, the enticement of falling asleep is too good to pass up. I am trusting that, despite my lack of presence in the online blog world, the internet will continue on. Albeit, not as interesting, but it will continue. <pause for eye rolling>

So by and large, the week was a good one. As with many in the workforce, I periodically have issues with coworkers. You might think it odd, a chaplain having personality conflicts with people, but, I am human. Said coworker, was, in fact, another chaplain. We chaplains seem to always be in the midst of some sort of conflict with someone, whether it be the management, each other, or patients. I have no idea why that is, but whenever we get together, someone has a burr up their behind about something.

I have the unfortunate good luck of being the most recent addition to the team, if you call a year and a half recent. I’ve pretty much integrated myself well into the organization, and recently have realized that my nurse, social worker and management colleagues have also accepted me. In fact, I’ve been getting more patient referrals in the past several weeks than I have in the past year. That’s a good thing!

Anyway, despite my good rapport with my interdisciplinary colleagues, we chaplains do not work together often, if at all. Basically, the organization splits us up among the established nursing teams, and our paths never cross. This week though, we needed to come together to discuss vacation scheduling and to work on a project. I took the lead in organizing the meeting and once together, allowed others to take over with the agenda.

What I thought would be a lighthearted, easy get together turned quickly to the opposite when one of my colleagues exclaimed, “I don’t know why we have to talk about vacations. It’s not our responsibility to make sure things are taken care of.” The silence was palpable. I decided to overlook this animosity toward management, and continue with reviewing the calendar. Said coworker again voiced her irritation, then began talking to the colleague next to her. As there were only four of us in the room, that left myself and the remaining colleague to just look at each other in confusion. For the next several minutes, we were basically ignored because our colleague refused to talk about scheduling. I felt like I was at home with my teenagers!

Eventually, as the meeting progressed, I decided it was in my best interest to stand my ground and get what I needed from the meeting…since…I WAS THE ONE WHO CALLED IT. My colleague continued to voice her annoyance until I finally said, “I am hearing you say you do not feel it necessary to do this, but I do. For my own organization, I need to make sure everything is covered and I am not going to get a call one day saying you’re off, which will throw my schedule into disarray. If you don’t want to write anything down, that’s your choice.” Her response? “Well I’m sorry you feel you have to have that information.” WHAT???

My response to her was to tell her what days I would be off, because it would be she who would cover for me, and if she chose not to writer the dates down, I was not going to remind her, because that’s what this meeting was for. She said that if she decided to take those particular days off as well, management would just have to deal with it. Again, WHAT??? Talk about doing your best to be a b**ch. She then went on to say that “We never had to worry about this before, so why are you doing this now?” I replied that we had done the same thing last year, and reminded her that I had sent out calendars to everyone with our vacation times listed and who was covering. Her response? “Well, I wasn’t talking about last year, I was talking about years ago.”  Uh huh. Yeah.

By that time, I was thoroughly done with this attitude. I politely asked her, “Why are you focusing on what happened so far in the past? We are here, right now, and shouldn’t we find a way to make things easier moving forward? What’s the point of dwelling on the past?” She had no comment. Evidently, my colleague felt she has been wronged by the organization so much that she has decided to be a non-participant in anything resembling forward progress. She is not going to help a place that she feels hasn’t helped her. Seriously, could we act more like a petulant toddler who isn’t getting her way?

Thankfully, my colleague eventually decided to at least write my vacation days down, in some feeble attempt to appease me. What she does with that info I will never know. Hell, I’ll be on vacation so it won’t bother me if she forgets. Is that petty of me? I was proud of myself for not allowing her to walk all over me with her unwillingness to participate. In fact, my other colleague was equally frustrated and annoyed with said coworker. After the meeting, we both were thankful we do not have to go home with her, and decided there were things going on in her life we would never understand, and we don’t want to. Sometimes, for your own health and sanity, you just have to not participate in someone else’s chaos. What’s that phrase? Not my circus. Not my monkeys. This definitely applies here.

I think people’s perception of chaplains is that we are somehow “above” everyone else, or that we somehow don’t have regular people’s emotions. Chaplains, pastors or priests can’t get mad, that’s a negative emotion! We’re suppose to be tolerant of everyone, chaste and have virgin ears (never hearing cursing or lewd talk). Say what?? Before we all decided to go into the ministry, we were all part of regular families. We all grew up going to school, whether public or parochial, and have heard locker room talk. (Granted, not President Trump’s locker room talk, but that’s beside the point.) Why do so many people feel like we’re easily offended? Jesus got angry too, for gosh sake! And really, we’re supposed to be able to listen to our patients, their families, and our parishioners talk about all of the messiness in their lives, but not be able to relate to them or hear the negative things? How practical is that?

So my frustration with my colleague is typical that of anyone else’s frustration with a coworker. I get annoyed, irritated and downright mad sometimes. Before I went into the ministry as a profession, my mantra was always, Stupid people make me crazy. That still holds true for the most part, but in my current workplace, I don’t encounter very many said stupid people. By and large my colleagues are wonderful, caring and compassionate individuals who only want the best for the patients and families we serve. So while I have my moments of utter irritation and I want to lash out, the calmer and more rational side of me prevails and I decide to not allow anyone else to have power over my emotions or my actions. I can’t say I always pray for these people I’m irritated with, but I do pray that I never come to a place like that which they are in. I choose to pray that God will continue to show His favor on my life and lead me to where I know He wants me to go. I pray the same for you, whomever you are and wherever you are in the world as you read this.

Final questions

Have you ever had one of those days where you woke up feeling like total crap, but you knew you had to power through the day because there was no way to get out of what you had scheduled? Yep, that was me today. Maybe I felt this way it’s because I didn’t take a supplement yesterday like I was supposed to and it’s catching up with me. Maybe I slept wrong and the headache that I felt coming on soured my mood. Heck, maybe it’s because I’ve been making an effort to eat healthier and my body decided to revolt with a resounding, “I DON’T THINK SO, NONE OF THAT GOOD FOR YOU CRAP IS COMING IN HERE!” Regardless, I felt like dog doodoo.

Nevertheless, I washed down some acetaminophen, made sure I took said supplements, and hopped in the car along with my breakfast meal replacement smoothie (yay for healthier food choices…). By the time I got to the office, the headache hadn’t materialized, but the rest of the crappy feeling was still there. I won’t go into details about some of the legitimate reasons for feeling crappy. You know, HIPAA regulations and whatnot. Suffice it to say, there are a couple actual medical things going on so at least I have half a good reason for feeling lousy.

My day was booked solid with patient visits, and although my total visits amounted to only four, when adding in charting and driving time to each, there was barely time in between to pee. And let me tell you, when you’re on the road visiting patients in their homes, you can’t exactly ask to use their bathrooms. You end up weighing the bathroom pros and cons of McDonald’s vs. Wendy’s vs. Taco Bell vs. Burger King vs. random gas station. Gas station bathrooms are definitely out, as I cannot recall one I have ever been in that was not beyond gross. Today, Taco Bell won out because I’m a Diet Pepsi drinker and of the fast food places, this is the only one serving Pepsi products. ***SIDEBAR*** Have you ever felt guilty just stopping at a fast food joint for the bathroom access? I mean, do you do the quick dash in, hoping staff won’t notice you, and then do the covert retreat back out the door, knowing you should have gone to the counter and at least gotten a $0.50 apple pie or something to compensate for the water, toilet paper, soap and paper towels you used? Being on the road every day for work, this though goes through my mind more often than I would like. Today though, I made up for it by actually ordering something after my pit stop. All is now right again in the world of give and take.

Of my visits today, I am most reflecting on my 85+ year old patient, who is spunky, energetic and opinionated. It’s always a pleasure visiting her because she has something to say about everyone and everything. Today though, I was visiting at her request, not just stopping in for my regular bi-weekly chat. Today my patient seemed distance and sad. She had requested I come by because she was struggling with the death of her sister just a few weeks ago. My patient is one of 7 children, who, prior to her sister’s recent death, was one of the 5 remaining. Two brothers died over 40 years ago in their twenties, so it had been the 5 left for many years. That seems to all be changing, as not only has her sister died, but the remaining siblings are each in very poor health, in varying stages of decline.

Not that my patient is the picture of health herself. Hell, she’s on hospice, so she, too, is declining. The difference though, is that my patient is still mobile, has her cognition intact, and she still has plans for her future. She’s getting more tired and confused each day, but by and large, more active than her brothers and sisters. So as I sat across from her, I listened as she contemplated her sister’s last days, their life together, and all the things she didn’t say to her. I could see the emotion play across her face. At one point, she put words to that emotion and revealed that it is so very hard for her now because she knows she is going to die. Before it all seemed like something that would eventually happen, but that eventuality is coming soon. She also struggles with why she still has so much energy when her siblings do not. It’s the typical, “Why me?” question, only in this case, it’s Why NOT me? She wonders why she has been chosen to feel better and be physically better than her siblings.

Our conversation led to talking about the number of days in our lives, and how we do not know that number. We talked about God, and whether He allows things to happen to us, even though He can change things, or if He sits by like a parent and watches us, hoping we make good decisions and choose wisely. I believe our days are written for us long before we are even born, but what we do with those days is up to us, and how our days play out is largely a creation of our own. We can choose to not pick up that cigarette, or alcoholic drink, or that syringe. We can choose to not go out with that controlling person, or we can leave the abusive home. We can choose to be on time for work, to hold doors open for others and to help someone carry groceries from the car to the apartment. They are all choices we make which affect the very fabric of our lives. But I don’t believe we can choose when our lives will be over. Yes, we could take our own lives, but if our life was meant to end that particular day, then it would have, whether by our own hand, my someone else’s or by accident.

These are the questions which are the foundations of debates across the world. I could contemplate the vastness of life, choice, faith and God for eternity and still not be anywhere closer to the truth than I already am today. So as I sat looking at my patient, I could see her memories flashing through her mind as she stared off at various times. I could see her wondering what life was all about, if it was worth it, or if she had done what she was supposed to do. She was contemplating her life, knowing someday soon it would all be over. The questions she had were visible, yet unspoken.

I could see her questioning her faith a bit as well. After all, what type of faith would we have if we blindly went with it, without asking a single question or challenging ourselves. God is big enough to take our questions, our anger, our confusion and our resentments. The hardest part about faith is continuing to have it, even when outside forces press on us to abandon it, and the questions seem too hard to answer. That’s when faith matters the most – when it seems we have it the least.