Archive for Family

A Child’s View of Dying

“Now I can have my television back,” the six-year old said.

Death has its rewards.

When I was a hospice chaplain, that’s what the youngest grandson of a patient declared soon after the death. From the mouth of babes, eh? “Unless you become like a child, you won’t enter the kingdom of God,” Jesus said. And it’s not just Christianity, for Buddha reportedly expressed, “The heart of a child is like that of Buddha.”

But a television?

All of us present chuckled when the youngster spoke of his entertainment plans. We laughed sadly—and joyfully—because of what had occurred a few minutes before . . . and what had been happening for quite a while. The grandfather had lived with the family for longer than his grandson’s lifespan: eight years. That meant adjustments for everyone. Sometimes the household had to be very quiet—hard for any kid. Trips to Disneyland were postponed. Friends couldn’t come over at certain times. Holidays were low-key.

In the final months of the grandfather’s life, with most of his time spent in a bed, he got to have the television in his room.

None of the sacrifices were easy for the six-year old or his nearly nine-year old brother. Read More →

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Entering a Home in the Wee Small Hours

Had it been that long since they were able to take a walk?

The phone rang at one in the morning.

I sleep deeply and wake fast. Moments after the call, I was dressed. In less than fifteen minutes, I arrived at their home and stood beside their bed.

The husband wept. I’d never seen him cry before.

She lay beneath the sheets. In repose, eyes closed, and you could (almost) pretend she was blissfully slumbering through the night. But she was dead.

Later I’d recall Charles Dickens’ familiar opening in his Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .” Aren’t those extremes how you react to the after-midnight calls? Why else would the phone ring in the wee small hours, except to convey the best news about a child’s birth or a beloved’s safe arrival from a far-flung war zone?

Or to share the worst news.

The odds of a jangling phone conveying the “worst” message was high. Back then, I was the on-call chaplain for a hospice. Most nights remained calm, but all could be disrupted.

And death always seems a disruption. Read More →

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From the Mouths (and Gift Cards) of Children

The nine-year old kid wanted to give a newly born cousin a present by using the gift certificate he’d just received.

But I’m cynical and suspect people (even kids with ages based on single digits) have an agenda—usually a self-serving agenda—when they help others.

The nine-year old kid wanted to give a newly born cousin a present by using the gift certificate he’d just received. The certificate was for $20 and would allow him to buy anything at the local Walmart store.

Yeah, but this likely me-first little kid probably didn’t like stuff at Walmart and was only dumping an unwanted gift on the family of his unsuspecting infant cousin.

The nine-year old kid wanted to give a newly born cousin a present by using the gift certificate he’d just received. The certificate was for $20 and would allow him to buy anything at the local Walmart store. The boy had received the gift card, along with a basket of other goodies, from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Any-who, I’ve lived into my sixth decade and have witnessed or read about everything. There’s nothing much—good or bad, joyful or perverse—that surprises me anymore. Read More →

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