Archive for Children – Page 2

How Can I Tell My Kid I’m Dying?

parent-childA patient recently asked his hospice nurse, “How can I tell my kid that I’m dying?”

Before attempting answers, there are several excellent reasons to “question” my responses.

First, I don’t have children. I’ll never tell my own kid that I am dying.

Second, I’m not an expert. There are excellent books, from scholarly research on “children and dying” to kids’ books containing well-chosen words and lovely drawings to help youngsters (and parents) discuss death. In the grief groups I’ve lead, I often mention Patty Dann’s 2007 memoir “The Goldfish Went On Vacation” for insights on telling kids about a dying parent. Known for her best-selling novel “Mermaids,” Dann wrote about her husband’s brain cancer and how she dealt with their young son before and after the death. While I heartily recommend Dann’s book, I’m only aware of a spoonful of resources in the gallons of books, blogs and articles* that are available.

Now you know my advice-giver weaknesses! However, in the realm of conversations involving parents, kids and dying, being open about weaknesses (and strengths) is essential.

For my responses, I’m guided by a favorite quote from President Franklin Roosevelt: be sincere; be brief; and be seated. That was the 32nd President’s humorous views on public speaking. Read More →

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Currency of the Realm

When I was a hospice chaplain . . .

I believe Jesus spoke of at least two distinctive events when he talked about God’s realm. The first was after death. Eternal life. But the second time and place will be the next moment and relationship. The “realm of God” is where what is said or done reveals the way God longs for us to be in community.

When I was a hospice chaplain, I witnessed both ways of understanding:  the hope of life after death and the hope of life now. Remember how you felt when you were hurt by the words of another and they came to you and honestly apologized and asked for forgiveness? In that moment, as you gave forgiveness, you helped fulfill the Holy’s desire. It is the selfish becoming the selfless, the stranger greeted as neighbor, hate transformed by acts of mercy, a peaceful person boldly becoming peacemaker.

Living within “God’s Realm” is becoming child-like; all religions proclaim this.

*      *      *

I spent time talking with one of my patients. She was, as we said in hospice medicalese, “alert and oriented.” Though her body was under assault from a failing heart and cancer, she happily shared her personal history and hoped-for future activities. She was also realistic. She knew some of the future plans might not happen. But all of them involved people and there wasn’t any doubt anticipating a high school graduation or family reunion was important.

While we talked, the patient’s five-year old great-grandchild dashed from one room to another. Suddenly, with a blue, irregularly shaped object clutched in her hand, the child plopped at my feet and announced she must give me money. Well!

As our adult-talk continued, I noticed the great-grandchild carefully pried off the bottom of the blue object. Aha! Money tumbled from her piggy bank. She handed coins to me. I thanked her and told her it would be better if she kept it. Solemnly, she agreed.

She fidgeted and then whispered, “How ’bout some quarters?” With the selected coins cradled in her palm, she reached toward me.

I also took those, again thanked her, and returned them.

I knew her tricks. I’ve used ‘em myself. This pint-sized person craved my attention. But I believe there’s more. I think she knew money was valuable and I seemed like an okay guy and why not give me something worthwhile? She was young enough to know money had value, but not so old as to hoard it. If it’s good, give it away!

When we’re with others, what else is there but to give ourselves away? To share our best gifts…not money as such, but the currency of God’s realm. Of time, trust and peace. Are those easy to share? No. Too many of us act like adults.

We hoard. We withdraw. We evaluate. We compare.

The child scampered away, perhaps to give coins to someone else in the house. The patient said, as I prepared to leave, that she was so thankful for hospice, for all the people helping her. I held her hand, we prayed, and I knew the currency of God’s love had been shared. Child-like, we knew what was valuable.

Once strangers, we were neighbors.

Will death come? Of course. But now, here . . . life.

(Hospice vigorously protects a patient’s privacy. I’ll take care with how I share my experiences. Any names used are fictitious. Events are combined and/or summarized.)

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