Archive for Questions

I Hope You Don’t Feel Like You’re a Burden?

Whenever I entered a patient’s home as a hospice chaplain, much seemed the same. The patient might be rich or poor, young or old, but they were invariably surrounded by the benchmarks of a life-threatening illness: hospital beds, oxygen tanks, commodes, medication bottles.

Still, with eyes and heart open, I knew everyone, and ever situation, was unique.

How can one patient, facing death, glow with kindness? How can another, also confronted by death, appear mired in bitterness? Of course, it’s like that with everyone, in all seasons and places. One child laughs, another child sulks. One employee bounces through the Monday morning office door, while the next slouches in with a grim, don’t-tread-on-me expression. Voices and fingerprints and more confirm that we are the lonely or lovely stars of our one-person road show.

And so, I sit beside a patient’s hospital bed. Read More →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Don’t Let the What-ifs Hijack Your Grief

What-if questions haunt us. After a loved one’s death, the what-ifs can feel like a vice squeezing our hearts. But they finally ease their grip as the clock keeps spinning and the calendar pages turn.

What if the what-ifs keep troubling us?

They can randomly and relentless disturb us, like odd noises jarring us awake in the depths of night. What if . . .

  • he’d quit smoking years before?
  • she had gone to the oncologist earlier?
  • they hadn’t given that last dose of morphine?
  • you hadn’t flirted with the passenger on the plane?
  • you’d said, “I love you” . . . instead of “Leave me alone?”
  • the family had attended church (or temple, synagogue, or…) more often?

Are what-ifs like an airborne virus? Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines disease as:

“a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.” [Underlining is mine.] Read More →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

On Saying as Little as Possible to a Hospice Patient

“We made a lot of mistakes,” the wife said.

Before I* could respond, she continued talking about how she and her husband had both worked seven days a week until they retired.

“Should’ve taken more Sundays off,” she mused.

Then she veered into mentioning communion in the Episcopal Church, which caused her hard-of-hearing husband to loudly announce, “We used grape juice, ya know,” referring to his Baptist-oriented childhood.

On they chattered for a few more minutes, with me listening, trying to follow their wandering, ever-expanding subjects.

Finally, when each took a breath, I asked her, “What mistakes do you think you made?” Read More →

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather