Looking for the Helpers

loveneverfailsIt’s been a week since Orlando. It’s been a year since Charleston. Anniversaries of tragedies can resurface all the feelings of shock, anger, and grief that we initially felt. The grief of public tragedies lately has been overwhelming for me. Through the combination of clinical depression, a deep sense of empathy, and a vivid imagination, I get stuck imagining myself over and over in the place of the victims when I hear the horror stories in the news. I had to stop listening for a while. But still again and again my mind returns to the Pulse nightclub a week ago, and Mother Emanuel AME church a year ago. The only thing that makes it bearable for me is to do what Fred Rogers said his mother taught him to do when he saw horrible things on the news: “Look for the helpers.”  Continue reading “Looking for the Helpers”

D is for Death

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(This is the fourth in my series, ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy. Read other posts in the series here.)

“He then greeted Death as an old friend and went with him gladly, departing this life as equals.”

Sometimes I forget how different my perspective is from that of most “normal” people. Then my roommate asks me, “How was work last night?” I reply, “Not too bad. Just two deaths and a trauma.” She laughs and I look at her quizzically. “Sorry,” she says, “but you’re the only person I know who would call two deaths in one shift ‘not too bad.’ Your job is so weird.” I guess she has a point. Working in a hospital, encountering death on such a routine basis, is more than a little weird. Continue reading “D is for Death”

Endings and Beginnings

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He was much too old for lullabies, already a teenager. If he had been able to speak, he may have protested, but I doubt it. His mother lay in the hospital bed next to him, wrapped her arms around him. A few hours earlier, she had been full of anxiety and anger, lashing out at anyone who so much as hinted that her son was dying. But I did more than hint. I confronted her with the reality that he was coming to the end, and that he needed her now as much as ever. The anger exploded — then disappeared. And in her son’s last hours, she did as good a job of anyone I’ve ever seen at saying goodbye. She told him she loved him, that every day with him was a gift, and then for a painfully long time, she sang him to sleep. She made sure that the last sound he would hear was not beeping monitors or her anguished sobs or his own raspy final breaths, but that first sound — his mother’s voice, singing to him the same songs she had sung when he was a baby. Continue reading “Endings and Beginnings”