Saturday, November 20, 2010

Unit 1 ends . . .

There is an old saying that time flies when you are having fun . . . the fact is time flies . . . my first unit of CPE is over . . . well, not quite as I have some work to catch up with this weekend.

So what do I think? . . . it has been challenging, but rewarding . . . it has stretched me in ways that I could never imagine . . . it has invited and forced me to look at myself critically . . . it has helped me in ways that the seminary nor the local parish did to continue exploring my own theology -- words about God . . . through this it seems that God is giving me another piece of the puzzle that is God's plan for me both in life and in ministry . . . I am now beginning to get a glimpse of what it looks like but there is still work to be done to fit the pieces together . . . discernment continues to find my next step in the journey . . . I have time and right now I am not anxious.

The most challenging thing of late has been the unit's final evaluation . . . it was a time where we had to reflect on the last three months from a variety of areas, including ourselves, our work, our theology and our interpersonal relationship . . . it was hard work, at least for me . . . for others it didn't seem to be hard work . . . this is one of the things that I have discovered about myself . . . I have high expectations of myself so have high expectations of others . . . when we don't live up to those expectations I pout . . . awareness is the first step to move out of unhealthy patterns . . . perfection is not possible . . . I have to learn how to accept that people, for the most part, do the best they can in given circumstances and if they don't they are responsible . . . the thing I wrestle with is if it affects me negatively . . . I see this in our group as folks are not willing to go deep . . . many of them want to swim on the surface and this does affect me . . . but at least I was able to say this so feel better.

Our unit ended with a day-long retreat . . . I dreaded it . . . it was great . . . a lot of time for silent reflection . . . a lot of time to think, pray and write . . . began in chapel by sitting quietly praying and then moved into the Chapel of God's Creation . . . it was a beautiful day . . . hearing, feeling, touching, smelling and seeing God's good creation all around . . . it was a good day . . . it has been a good unit . . . praise be to God.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Life and Death, Healing and Hope.

Friday I was exhausted . . . it finally dawned on me yesterday that part of that exhaustion is related to death . . . as a person I have lost people in my life . . . as a local pastor I was confronted with death on occasion but not often . . . as a chaplain in residence I am facing death almost on a daily basis . . . sometimes more than one a day, especially if I am "on call" . . . if I remember correctly one night "on call" I attended three deaths . . . one of the chaplains-in-residence has joked that she wants to trade "on call" with me as I seem to get the interesting cases . . . I am not sure that that is always true, but I do sense that I have had more deaths while serving "on-call" than many of the residents . . . all these deaths and how families respond to them, and even the patient, have lead me to a deeper appreciation of the gift of faith . . . of believing in the promise and assurance of the work Christ Jesus accomplished on the cross for us.

But there is something that is giving me pause . . . we have a Catholic priest from India who is also a chaplain-in-resident . . . a young man was admitted to the inpatient Oncology Unit . . . I entered his room as I was making rounds . . . the man was obviously in pain . . . his mother-in-law, father and a family friend where in the room . . . I introduced myself . . . the mother-in-law whispered to me . . . he was just admitted to Palliative Care -- they expect that he will pass away this afternoon or tonight . . . the patent's wife had gone to make funeral arrangements and would be back later her mother told me . . . later when I visited with the wife, knowing that they were Catholic, I asked if they wanted the priest to come and give the Anointing of the Sick (this use to be known as Last Rites) . . . she related that Father R -- the chaplain-in-residency, had already done this . . . it is my understanding that he is not to be doing this rite . . . anyway that afternoon I go to him as he is the chaplain-on-call to let him know that this man's death is imminent and he should be prepared . . . he tells me that he is OK, that he is being healed . . . I explain that the cancer has spread throughout the man's body, including his brain, and the doctor has explained to the family that death is imminent . . . the man dies that night.

Friday I am in the Palliative Care Team meeting where I learn that Father R has anointed another terminal patient who is not his patient . . . worse he has told the family that she is being healed . . . the Palliative Care Nurse has discussed this with the CPE supervisor who suggests that the family may be lying . . . I don't believe this is the case . . . Father R does believe in physical healing and I believe that he does tell some folks this . . . I heard something similar when I went on rounds with him once in pre-surgery -- this was early in our residency and I didn't see as insidiously as I do now . . . I do believe our God is a God of possibilities . . . and that God in infinite wisdom, mercy and grace can and does heal people physically . . . when my brother was dxed with terminal cancer -- the cancer was spread throughout his body, including the liver, I met a man -- a pharmacist, who had lived with liver cancer for 4 years . . . and just last Sunday I gave the invocation to a group of cancer survivors and heard remarkable stories of survival AND healing.

Shall we hold out false hope for healing when all signs point to the ultimate healing?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roller Coaster . . .

This CPE thing is a roller coaster . . . I am learning alot both about being a chaplain and, perhaps more importantly about myself . . . the latter is not always easy. One of the things I am learning about myself is communication is a major hurdle for me . . . both as the giver and as the receiver . . . I have spoken (written) about needing to be think before I speak . . . I also am finding that I am one of those people who spends time not listening because I am trying to think of what to say . . . awareness is the first step toward change . . . I notice this happens more in IPR rather than with patients and their families . . . I have also learned that there are people who won't give direct answers and this frustrates me immensely . . . there are people who with hold information and this also frustrates me . . . and there are people who give false information then to later say "no you never heard that." And so I am learning that clear communication is necessary and am recommitted to refining my communication skills which I always thought were adequate . . . and to give myself the benefit of the doubt maybe it is the other person.

The other part of the roller coaster is that I am covering more patients . . . I had had some problems with visiting after a recent death that brought back for me my aunt's horrific death . . . for some reason . . . maybe just giving voice to it I have surmounted this hurdle and have stepped up my seeing patients.

And then there is my health . . . during my pre-employment physical the nurse sent me to a walk-in clinic for high blood pressure . . . they also found my Blood Sugars were very high . . . I was pre-diabetic, but thought it was controlled . . . evidently my monitor wasn't working right and now the dx of diabetes . . . yesterday, the doctor asked if I was willing to go on an injectable med -- not insulin . . . did some research and it is a new med and there is some indication that there is the risk for thyroid cancer in a small number of patients . . . so I am working hard to do everything I can to let the oral meds work so watching my diet, drinking more water and have to start exercising (YUCK!)

So I am working to get off the roller coaster . . .