Waiting in Advent

A lot of waiting happens in hospitals. I get to be chaplain to people who are waiting for an organ transplant, waiting for a baby to arrive, waiting for their discharge orders to go home, waiting for test results, waiting for the medication to work, waiting for death, their own or a loved one’s. Often they don’t know how long they will have to wait, and that makes the waiting harder. And no matter what they’re waiting for, they know that things will be different when the waiting is over, in ways that they may not even be able to anticipate. 

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Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

Like millions of other people, I’ve spent the past few months obsessed with the soundtrack to the Broadway musical Hamilton. If you’re not familiar with the play, it dramatizes the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, telling the story through modern American musical styles. It is brilliant and funny and moving. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to it, and I still cry every time. Before he puts young Hamilton in charge of a battalion of soldiers to fight a crucial Revolutionary War battle, General George Washington sings words of paternal wisdom and caution: Continue reading “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”

M is for Morgue

(This post is part of my ongoing series ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy.)

The sign by the door reads “Decedent Affairs.” It’s a euphemism. Nobody whose loved one is being treated in the hospital, or who is actually a patient there, wants to see the word “Morgue” as they walk down the hallway. That’s the rationale, as I understand it. But the morgue is there. We all die sometime, whether or not we want to admit it, and a lot of us die in hospitals. When that happens, the morgue is where a body stays until it is picked up by the funeral home. Continue reading “M is for Morgue”

Advent Conspiracy Week 2: Spend Less

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Oh, I’ve been dreading this one. Ever since I saw the posters for Advent Conspiracy going up at church a few weeks ago, and I saw that the second week’s theme was about money, I knew that would be the hardest one for me. I’ve never been good with money. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t go on crazy shopping sprees for Jimmy Choo shoes or plasma screen TVs bigger than me or beluga caviar or anything like that. But I do find myself often paraphrasing Captain Jack Sparrow and wondering, “Why is the money always gone?” Continue reading “Advent Conspiracy Week 2: Spend Less”

Advent Conspiracy Week 1: Worship Fully

icn-worship-fully Last year was my first Advent on this blog, and I wrote about the four weekly themes of Advent (well, three of them anyway – I got too busy one week). This year, since I already wrote about hope very recently in my ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy series, I decided to do something different. Our church is one of many this year participating in Advent Conspiracy, a countercultural movement to focus on the real meaning of this season and not get so caught up in all the “stuff” that goes along with the holidays. I don’t mean writing out Christmas instead of Xmas (which doesn’t bother me since the Greek letter X was an early abbreviation for Christ), or wishing people Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays (which also doesn’t bother me since people of other faiths have holidays at this time of year and I want them to be just as happy). It’s about much more than what we write or what we say.  Continue reading “Advent Conspiracy Week 1: Worship Fully”

Living Up to My Name

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I’ll never forget the day I got called out in my Greek class. My mind had been wandering as the professor went over the vocabulary words on the white board, and I thought he had caught me when I heard him say my name. “Stacy! Did you know,” he asked, “that your name is the diminutive form of Anastasia? And that name comes from anastasis. So the root of your name is -” He tapped the board where the Greek word was written, and I read the English translation next to it. “Resurrection,” I said in wonder. No, I definitely had not known that that’s what my name means. I’m certain my parents didn’t know either when they chose the name. But all these years later, I’d like to think it fits. Continue reading “Living Up to My Name”

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”

Ambivalence and Joy: Advent 3

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I have such mixed feelings about the holiday season that, I’ll admit, when one particular Christmas song comes on the radio, I change the words a little and sing, “It’s the most ambivalent time of the year!”  I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong.  I’m usually the first in my neighborhood to put up Christmas lights, and I look forward all year to my annual holiday party.  But the past few years especially, I’ve been feeling kind of left out of Christmas.  I hear all the songs on the radio, and watch all the movies, and see all the commercials, and walk past the greeting card aisle, and I get the impression that Christmas isn’t for people like me.  It’s for people surrounded by big families, not for those of us who live alone with a dog and have family living hundreds of miles away.  It’s for people whose gloriously romantic (and ridiculously wealthy) significant others buy them diamond jewelry and new cars with huge red bows on them, not for those of us without a significant other and living paycheck to paycheck.  Most of all, it’s for people who are happy, and there are plenty of days that’s just not me. Continue reading “Ambivalence and Joy: Advent 3”

Grief and Hope: Advent 1

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Last night, I was chaplain to a family dealing with a sudden loss.  In their grief, they asked over and over, as so many of us do, “Why?”  I didn’t even attempt an answer.  Anything would have been just noise at that point.  No matter what I said, their loved one would still be dead.  The closest I can come to a reason why is that the world is not what it should be.  In this season of the liturgical calendar, the lectionary readings remind Christians of just that. Continue reading “Grief and Hope: Advent 1”