Archive for Remembering Names

That’s Daddy

What is your name? Or should I say . . . names?

Why did your parents give you your first and middle names? Do you have more than three names? Is there a Jr. III, or Ph.D. after your last name? Do you have a title in front, like Dr. or Rev. or—if you’re in Congress—Honorable? During the recent presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton was often introduced as, “Secretary Clinton.” That represented a traditional gesture of respect towards her for the last official office (Secretary of State) she had held.

Let’s focus on middle names. Why do you have that name?

For me it’s “George.” As far as I know, it was chosen because it was Dad’s middle name. Beyond that spare early fact, George later inspired personal connections to cartoon characters and World War II heroes. During high school a few jokingly called me “George of the Jungle,” a reference to a dumb cartoon on television. There was also the famous World War II military figure, General George Patton (note his “misspelled” last name!), which led to a few “general” nicknames. And let’s not forget the nursery figure, Georgie-Porgie*. When bad as a kid, my little used middle name served as a warning for impending doom. If my parents demanded that Lawrence George Patten come to them “right now,” it was Trouble, with a capital T.

What about your middle name? What’s the history? Has it prompted lasting nicknames or is it part of lifelong family stories?

But why ponder names when my usual subject is hospice? Read More →

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8 Helpful Things To Say To Grieving People

From #7: Take a walk together. Sharing silence can be comforting...

From #7: Take a walk together. Sharing silence can be comforting…

In a prior post I identified comments and questions not to say to those who are grieving.

But what might be helpful things to say or do? Below are eight suggestions.

With these eight, I’m reminded of a theme in the grief support groups I’ve led: everyone’s grieving is different. None of my proposed “good” words or actions represents a magic formula. Don’t (oops, a “don’t!”) literally or figuratively copy and paste this list to any situation. Adapt it to who you are. Adapt it for the grieving person you seek to support.

(And as with the “bad” list, these sentences aren’t ranked from best to worst, or vice-versa.)

#1  I can’t imagine how you feel. Your friend/family member is flooded with powerful emotions, memories, and reactions unique to them. Often they don’t know how they feel, or why a few good hours or days in a row collapsed back into misery. But be ready to respond if your compassionate recognition of their distinctive grief leads them to ask how you coped with personal loss. If you’re able, carefully share your experiences. But honor the huge difference between telling someone what you think they should feel/do versus describing how you handled your difficult time. Read More →

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The Emperor of all Maladies

names1In the weekly team meetings at my hospice, we print a list of patients.

Everything on these stapled pages is confidential: the patient’s name, age, patient’s doctor, date of entry into hospice care, clinical staff assigned to the patient, and their disease.

I will tell you this. The names blur. Because I’ve lived in this community for several decades, I’ll occasionally recognize a name. But usually not, since there are nearly 2,000,000 residents in the region my hospice covers. Every week, scores of patients appear on the spreadsheet, some newly admitted, some served by our staff for weeks and months, and even—more rarely—for over a year.

But I study their names. I try to remember each is a gift. I try to remember they are brothers, aunts, fathers, grandmas, best friends, moms, bosses, colleagues, and children. My hospice has cared for members of street gangs. We have cared for the rich and famous. Are they that different? Ralph Waldo Emerson bluntly wrote, “Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.” Read More →

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