For Good

April 14, 2011

Sr. Wantabee is having to do reading for her chaplaincy program. She finished The Healing Connection which is a sociological approach to counseling focusing on connections, disconnections, and the relational images or rules that frame our interactions – excellent even if a feminist. Now she is on to Forgiveness for Good by Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford. It too is an excellent book talking about all our pet grumps, grievances, and wounds as planes circling our control tower and taking up too much air space in our minds. Something goes wrong, we take it personally, we blame that for other things in our lives and then create a grievance story. Sadly true and she stands convicted. We all have little rules about how we think life ought to work and when it doesn’t work the way we think it should, we have problems. Some rules we have no power to enforce.
Can Sr. Wantabee develop a habit of forgiveness? She had an opportunity yesterday to try it out. She was in a patient’s room chatting away and getting ready to pray and leave as she had to be at class. As the husband and wife started to bow their heads, the wife said, “Oh, here’s our pastor.” and indeed there was the visitation pastor, looking all spiff, seniorly and male. Sr. Wantabee immediately deferred to his relationship with the family and started to scoot on her way. He graciously, declined and asked Sr. Wantabee to pray which she did. As the wife reached for Sr. Wantabee’s hand, she heard the male voice start to boom forth with the closing prayer.
Immediately the doubts rose. I’m a woman and not good enough. My prayer was insufficient. I’m outclassed. As she wrestled with herself all the way to the elevator, well, actually all the way to the car, she had to reflect. Was he intending to insult me personally? Of course not. He doesn’t even know me. Does he have the right to pray? Of course. Are two prayers ok? Of course. Is he a male chauvinist? On what basis would I say that? Was my prayer honest, genuine and a reflection of how I understand reality? Yes. It is not within my power to control who prays. Prayer is good. I was true to myself and my God. Move on.

“I Want My Mother”

April 12, 2011

Sr. Wantabee was paged to ICU right after the death of an 86 year old lady who passed with congestive heart failure. The daughter was there and had come racing down the hall at the alert that her mother was in crisis. Sr. Wantabee entered the room to sit with the daughter who was distraut. Her husband was on the way. What do can be said in the face of death? Many things, of course, but they all stand hallow. Your mother is no longer suffering. Your mother loves you. Your mother… All are hallow. The woman wailed from the bottom of her heart, “I want my mother.”
It is true. Death is never welcome. Death is seldom welcome. Death leaves relationships unfinished. During Lent we reflect on the death on the cross, the need for it, the pain surrounding it, and the promise of the cross that death does not have the final say. Thank you Lord.

I Never Thought It Would End This Way

April 11, 2011

Yesterday Sr. Wantabee was on a 24 hour call at the hospital. That means 8-5 going from room to room to hear stories of woe asking for prayer, coming home to collapse and watch Amelia, and then mindless knitting to the Oldies. Mingled among the visits in the ICU to comfort the grieving of age-mates whose parent just died or an age-mate whose wife was intubated, came visits with what felt like more than my fair share of visits with 89, 87, 91 ish little ole people who had been married for 60 plus years who were in the hospital with failing bodies while their spouse of the same age was on a different floor or in a different insititution dying. “We never thought it would end this way.” The humiliation of living in a body that doesn’t respond like it did even thirty years ago and now such basic things as eating, pooping, peeing are being inspected by an entourage of people coming through. “I have no dignity left,” said one little old lady as she raised her gown for the aid to check whether her various bags were emptied.
We all at some level cry, “I never thought it would end like this.” I did not plan to be fat. I did not plan to have arthritis. I did not plan for my child to struggle with migraines. I did not plan… or want… The list does not end.
The text for this Sunday was the raising of Lazarus. One sister, Martha, meets Jesus and says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Do I detect a note of anger, frustration and pain. Jesus, you are my friend and I thought it wouldn’t end this way. The other sister, Mary, meets Jesus and cries, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Do her tears present the despair that she feels when faced with death. She too did not think it would end this way. We join Mary and Martha somewhere along the spectrum of their cries going from anger, frustration to despair with our cry, Lord, we didn’t think it would end this way.
We all rather envision a Notebook ending. Maybe we have Alzheimers but we will be beautiful and loved. Maybe our spouse will have Alzheimers but we will be handsome, charmin, reading the story of love and adventure. And we will die in each other’s arms, quietly, together, in the night, grieved by a crying audience at the beauty of our passing. Sigh. Now back to reality.
Jesus meets Martha’s anger, not with rejection because we know that “Jesus loved Martha” but with a challenge. “Do you believe that I am the resurrection?” Jesus meets Mary’s despair not with condemnation but with tears, “Jesus wept.” I never thought it would end this way, we cry. And Jesus responds, “I am the ressurection and the life. He who believes in me will never die”