Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Moment With a Mother

I’m sitting in a room in the Critical Care Unit of the Cancer Hospital. Actually, the place tries very hard to stay upbeat, so they call this Special Care. Whatever. 

Next to me is a petite woman who is in her seventies. She’s a grandmother, a retired nurse, and the mother of the dying man who lies in the bed in front of us. The pain medicine does its work and he drifts in and out of consciousness. Sometimes he is with us, but most of them time he is in moments of the past where he is healthier and happier. He speaks to the people in those moments—the words make no sense to his mother and me, but fit perfectly in the context of his moment.

Our moments are spent watching him, waiting for that last breath, which is imminent but the exact moment is unknown. 

The woman rises from her chair and flutters about, straightening the room, speaking of the latest novel she’s reading, checking her son’s feet to make sure they are not cold. And then she sits again, ready to share her dread of the moment when her son will no longer be alive. 

She tells me about him as a child, how he related to his sisters, how smart and artistic he was.  She lets me see the tear slide down her cheek when she tells me that she just can’t leave this room. She takes her meals here, and sleeps in the recliner, which she says is quite comfortable. 

I reach over and pat the top of her hand. I’d like to do more. I’d like to hold and perhaps kiss her hand, but that would be too forward.  Actually, I’d like to hold her, and whisper that it will be okay, but that wouldn’t be right either. I’d like to promise her that I’ll take care of her, but I won’t be able to. I’ll have to move on to another room in another hospital soon enough to not quite help someone else who watches a loved one die.

After he’s gone, she won’t be able to come to church because seeing me reminds her of my being with her in the hospital room and she’ll remember I was at the funeral dinner and that I spoke at the service although she won’t remember any of the words.  From then on, she’ll associate me with the death of her son. Some people come to hate me for that, but she probably wouldn’t. She’d tell everyone how well I treated her, but find reasons not to come to church or see me if she can avoid it.  However, she’ll send in her tithe each month and promise everyone that she’ll be back soon. 

I’m sad for her, but I’m also sad for me because I like this one and I’ll miss her. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

True Names of the Church

I was thinking of how the religious landscape of the nation is changing rapidly, and the churches we’ve known as we grew up are disappearing, perhaps not fast enough. Actually, it’s amazing how long these churches have held on. I guess the same stubbornness that made them drive themselves in the ground has also kept them in existence longer than we would expect. 

I drive around the neighborhood and look at their buildings with their clever signs and I consider what their names would be if they reflected their nature.  Here are a few that came to me. Perhaps you recognize them:  

The Church of Hateful Condemnation  
Commonly referred to as “The Gay Haters Church.”
Formerly the Church of Racist Bigotry. 

First Petrified Septuagenarian (FPS)

First Errant Church of the Young and Clueless
        The grandchildren of members of the FPS but they're drastically different. They're new and fresh because they play the drums in worship, plus they have a new volleyball net.  

Baptist Bullies of Main Street 
          Sounds more like a bar, doesn’t it? Or maybe a Broadway musical?

The Church of MeTooism
  As in:  
     “We have a new volleyball net, too.”
     “We have an LED sign that looks like it should hang over a strip club, too.”
     “We stood up for Jesus and against the Gays by eating at ChicFillet, too.” 

The Self Righteous Brothers Bible Church
         A split from The Church of Hateful Condemnation because it was getting too liberal.  This is the exciting new nondenominational church that celebrates that good old time religion.     

Lackluster Saints Community Church
Celebrating the sanctity of dullness, bringing people to new heights of tedium

United Hysteria Fellowship
          Even they don’t know what they’re saying, but they’re so sincere

Sunday, January 5, 2014


This is the place I go to speak the things I can't say to anyone.... 

I was having a good day today until I went to the church’s grief support group. 

This week they addressed the loss of children. Some had lost grown children. Others had lost them when they were small.  My own children are alive and healthy, for which I am so thankful. 

But I had these... flashbacks, if that's the right word.
I remember being with a young single mother who stood devastated as she looked at the tiny body of her beautiful daughter lying in the casket. Less than a year later, I performed her funeral, too, and I listened to HER mother wail the words, “I can’t stand it!”

I remember tears of lots of parents as they mashed tissues into their faces in a vain attempt to squash their sobs. Other parents simply let it all out and wailed uncontrollably.  I remember them all.

The professional part of me looks at myself and thinks, “Post Traumatic Stress.” Actually, a more accurate term is "Vicarious Stress." But how does it help to know that? Say it’s true... what’s to be done?