Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Monday, September 13, 2010
Thus concluded my first visit with a hospice patient as Chaplain Adam. I have recently begun my new job for a hospice health care company. We provide palliative or comforting care for those with a terminal diagnosis of less than 6 months to live. Our area includes about 125 patients and 45 different nursing homes or other assisted living facilities in the greater metro Milwaukee area. The job description of a hospice chaplain is more or less to coordinate spiritual care for a patient and their family. This often includes responding to requests of specific sacraments, contacting local clergy of the patient's preferred religious denomination, assisting or presiding in memorial services, acting as counselor for lively family dynamics, and more popularly, spending one on one time discussing life's final transition with the patient and their family.
It is hard to express how these visits carry so much meaning, but I look forward to sharing with you a few stories about the precious patients and supportive staff I work with. Any and all insights about death and dying from your own experience are welcome. I would really benefit from your wisdom. I hope you have a wonderful week!
Monday, June 28, 2010
Some days are better than others working for the Visiting Nurse Association. We get used to odd requests or upset patients but this day was something else.
Betty had built up quite an infamous reputation in the last week. In a matter of days she requested five visits from various service technicians regarding issues with her wheelchair. Frustration builds when she has a reoccurring problem with different parts of the chair that could not be resolved on one or two trips. Customer Service now recognizes her voice by the second syllable. And not to mention she told Brad she would call the police if he did not leave immediately.
So you can imagine how I felt when I found Betty's paperwork next to my name tag. I remember whispering to myself, "This will be good experience for the chaplain job you want." I recently received a job offer to work as a part-time chaplain for a small hospice agency in Milwaukee. I chalked this challenge up to some circumstances I might find with hospice care. I also honestly wondered in what manner I would become the next service technician victim. In front of her house I crossed myself to build up the courage to leave the security of my van.
One hour and forty minutes later I returned to the van.
I wish, at times like these, I was given the gift of quick wit or bright insight or uplifting humor. I figured that's what people appreciated most in problematic times. Yet it seems more often than not it is the response I downplay the most that somehow makes a difference. All I'm able to do in the face of violent storms is to nod slowly and to listen hard.
And how often do we hear this, but Betty needed to tell her story. She has so much pent up anger against her daughters for being absent, her caregivers for not giving her excellent service, her husband for leaving this world without her, and her God for allowing this all to happen. Somehow telling her story is therapeutic. I could tell by the tears she cried, the smile that surfaced near the end, and the hug she gave me when we said goodbye. No matter how badly I want to, I cannot give peace. I can only invite it to emerge.
Betty still calls the office every so often. And when I go out to see her I know that it really is not about the complaint concerning the wheelchair I need to focus on, it is allowing and accepting her to be herself. I wish could pick up her spirits with a good joke, or show off some quick wit, or provide deep breakthrough insight. But I am there oversimplified or not, to let her tell her own story.
Friday, June 4, 2010
"Oh hey, what's up?"
"It's been a year and a half but your boots finally came in."
"Your boots......from Mexico." (I never ordered any boots when I was in Mexico)
"Ohhhh, okay." (having no idea what's going on I pretend to know what's going on)
So Veronica and I set up a time to come over to her house dinner. Forgetting for a moment, I looked lost when they reminded me of the boots. Out they came in their leathery glory. Regretfully, I thought for a fleeting second they might not fit. With every eye in the room on me I silently placed each boot on. To my surprise they were cushy and comfortable...and fit perfectly. The family cheered.
It had been a year and a half since I visited their grandmother in Leon, Mexico, the leather and shoe capital of Mexico. So during my visit I thought since I needed dress shoes, that I might find a great souvenir. I'll repeat that. I was looking for brown dress shoes. But here's where things get a little fuzzy. I don't remember saying a word or talking about cowboy boots. I don't know how they got my shoe size unless it was while I was looking for dress shoes. However I did not find literally any shoe my size. Maybe that's why the boots order took a year and a half. I ended up settling on a pair of sandals, of which I was quite content. Or so I thought.
Hesitant at first to accept the boots, now they've really grown on me. I wore them the rest of the afternoon with the family. And now every time I go to mass it will be in style like many of the others in the Guadalupe congregation sporting their own boots. Outside of that I am still unsure of when to wear them...unless of course there is a western themed party. Huh, I may have to throw one of those.
I am open to ideas, though :)
And to assure the doubters like my brother I do know it is not chic to wear the boots with shorts. I think I deserve a little more style credibility than that.
But that my friends is the story of my boots. They were made for blogging. Don't you think so?
Saturday, May 1, 2010
What an awful conversation to discuss. Why even broach the subject? I believe Deb's story needs to be heard so that others do not have to suffer alone. I have to believe that God does not linger in times like these. Instead there the Spirit is, laboring to transform complete devastation into some good, the sole hope being this tragedy can prevent further tragedies.
Knowingly or unknowingly my mother and her coworkers did just when shortly after hearing the news, they made a pact that no matter how hopeless or trapped either one of them felt, they would confide in one another rather than be consumed with overwhelming guilt or shame at such irrational thoughts.
And if anything needs more awareness it is that mental illness misconstrues reality and rational thought right upside down. One can actually tragically believe they are more of a burden on their family by existing than not. When and if the illness subsides, one can be overcome by the weight of guilt for even thinking such thoughts and continue to suffer alone.
There should be no stigma, no shame, no battle to fight in utter loneliness.
Fighting off the nagging feeling of powerlessness, there remains another question. What can we do to ensure that someone like Deb does not have to struggle needlessly alone? I was moved by the active choice of my mother and coworkers to make a pact with one another. This awareness related to mental illness and the lifesaving resources can never be downplayed. On a larger scale, the most vulnerable populations seem to be soldiers returning from active duty and college students. Personally, I know on college campuses nationwide Active Minds is a proven student-led organization that is dedicated to destigmatizing of mental illness as well as creating open dialogue about mental health and providing ample resources to those in need.
Whatever the tragedy we may find ourselves overwhelmed by may we be open to the grace of the Spirit that draws straight with crooked lines.....sometimes very crooked lines. May we have the courage and strength to take action to erase the great divide of suffering alone versus the sharing a load with another.
Thanks for permitting me to broach such a terrible topic. May our bond be closer because of such tragedy and look out for those in our midst the way Deb would.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
*I recently scored a 197 Mini-bowling
*I am moving into a house with two other great guys and medical students June 1st.
*I love getting lost in many different conversations in Spanish with patients or co-workers.
*I am becoming addicted to Beatles Rock Band on Wii.
*I've decided I am too emotional over Brewer losses.
*I can't wait to go up north sometime soon.
*After a 8 month hiatus, I am taking guitar lessons again
*Here is a picture of me at the Renaissance Fair caught as a pig thief.
I hope this finds you well. Every good blessing to you and yours! Feel free to say hello.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Here is Matt playing with Coryn:
And Josephine with her princess veil (otherwise known as a sofa arm cover(: