Monday, August 9, 2010

A Little Thing from CPE

This was part of my self-evaluation of my CPE experience ... we had to write a brief biography of our self as told by a favorite cartoon character.  I picked Eeyore from A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books.  I have always loved these stories and have a small (albeit dilapidated after all these years) stuffed Pooh and Eeyore from when I was a child.  When my own son was small, we would watch Pooh videos together and when he would get hurt or upset, I could always calm him by singing the song from the videos.

I found it difficult but fun to write at the same time.  For those who are familiar with the Winnie the Pooh stories, you will recognize lines and descriptions taken from the books (with the hopes that I don't cause any major copyright violation incidents).   I hope you enjoy it...

Biography of Me, by Eeyore
Nancy sat by herself in the corner of her room by the window, her head to one side, thinking. Sometimes she thought to herself, "Why?" and sometimes she thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes she thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes she didn't quite know what she was thinking about. The particular task ahead of her was to write her biography and her thoughts kept coming back to the boring thought that her childhood was nothing particularly exceptional so why would anyone be interested. Yet it had to be done and so she began.

She wrote and wrote and thought and wrote and realized her life looked different in the words on the page than the pictures in her head. The pictures in her head looked like any other family she knew, not that she new every family every there was, but she'd known some and that was enough. "They're funny things, families. You never know what yours looks like until you aren't in the middle of it anymore," she said to no one in particular, particularly since no one else was in the room.

Mom and Daddy, a big sister and brother, these were the ones she grew up with in a small corner of a small town in the big state of Texas. Sounds normal enough but the activities in the home were not as those of the neighbors. Daddy was a student, going to university, thinking big thoughts. Mom worked when the rest of the world slept and took care of those who needed extra care, even if just for a short time. But, Nancy said as she typed it, dinner time made things normal, they all sat down to eat together.

As everyone must, Nancy grew from childhood to a teenager with all of the mixed up thoughts and emotions that involves. This she knew was like everyone else. There were times when she would say, like I've been known to say, "We can't all and some of us don't … Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush." But there were many more times when she would say "one can't complain. I have my friends and my family. Someone spoke to me only yesterday" in her bouncy, cheery way.

The years continued to pass, days and weeks and seasons, rain and shine, hot and cold, happy and not. Someones and others and friends and dear ones, some stayed and some went. To most she could say: "Thank you. You're a real friend." Wandering here and there, over and yon, she never quite found her fit in any of the places she tried. One sun shiny spring day instead of going for a picnic in the woods with her son, she decided to visit a place she hadn't been in a very long not short time. She knew she belonged in this place and even when she went somewhere else, this place was still familiar there and she belonged. The sign on the door read Episcopal Church.

She’d been to a similar place as a child yet that place never seemed to fit. When she wanted to serve in this similar place she wasn’t allowed and this made her think thoughts about how was it possible that she read the guide book differently than others so she doubted her ability to read it and understand. It must just be grey dust that had blown into her head by mistake. There was no talking about it. There was no give and take. No exchange of thought. Only their way.

But in this new familiar and belonging place that she had found, Nancy began to feel a deeper and deeper need to serve and this time others and dear ones accepted what she did and encouraged her to serve more. The more she served the more energy she found until one day she was told she needed to go to yet another place to learn and read and practice about how to do this serving thing the right way. She said yes to the adventure but there would be happenings to happen before it could begin.

Of the someones and dear ones that she held so close, an extra special someone, her wise Grammy Irene was getting too old to hold on to anymore and she passed in that way that our grammys and grampys do and Nancy was sad. Three seasons, chilly winter and breezy spring and the oh-so hot summer passed and another dear one, one of the dearest, Mom, got so very sick and she was too tired to get better and she went to be with the grammys and grampys but Nancy thought she wasn’t old enough to go. But this was not all. Sometimes sad things come more than we want them to. Before they could leave on their adventure, Nancy’s husband and partner and friend decided that he didn’t want to have any more days and weeks and years and he too went where Grammy Irene and Mom went to be. The sadness was bigger than anything Nancy had ever seen. So big it tried to block out all the things that could cause a girl to smile.

But Nancy was not alone. There were still someones and friends and dear ones around and they smiled for her when she couldn’t and she could see her own smile somewhere in theirs. Despite being sad, Nancy knew as much as a girl could know that there was still the adventure she must take to learn and read and practice those things she needed to put into her brain, for they were already in her heart. And it is on this learning adventure that Nancy sits, writing her story that must be written, thinking new thoughts and trying them on for size and liking the fit. Saying to herself, “I know if I didn't have high hopes, I'd be depressed all the time” and feeling the happiness that will always live within her and letting it spill out onto the someones and dear ones and others around her.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I wrote this last week and just never got it posted… I'm now officially done with CPE, but there will be a few posts coming from the experience, I think, now that I have time to sit back and reflect on it a bit more …

There are lot of rules in the hospital about patient confidentiality (and rightfully so) so I have been reluctant to write much about my experiences with patients during my chaplaincy. But sometimes, the experience is just too powerful or interesting not to share. Of course I'll leave out anything that might possibly identify the hospital or the patient.

I walked in the room and introduced myself to the patient and his wife. As soon as I said the word "chaplain" his face light up. This is always a good sign. Reactions to saying I'm the chaplain have run the gamut, anywhere from sheer terror (why do I need a chaplain, am I dying), to suspicion (are you going to try and convert me), to disinterest (just another of a parade of hospital staff coming through), but I digress … back to this particular reaction, delight!

"I have a question for you, Chaplain." His face turns quite serious. "If you die in your sleep, how do you know you're dead?" (You will all be proud to know that I controlled my impulse to give a smart-assed answer because I saw the seriousness of his face and knew he really wanted a serious answer.)

"Well, I guess it all depends on what you believe happens after you die," I said.

He smiled and I gave an internal sigh of relief that he was pleased with my answer, or at least I was hoping the smile meant he wasn't offended or put off by it.

He stared at me for a few seconds before saying anything else. "You didn't flinch at my question, you just answered it. I like that. I guess my question is more about what should we be thinking as we die?"

I won't go into detail about everything we said (the conversation took over an hour and I don't care if you do have your favorite reading beverage and are willing to read it, I don't have the brain capacity to write it out word for word and disguise any personal information on behalf of the patient. Sorry to disappoint you).

He shared with me his personal experiences of being in dangerous situations where people around him were dying and his only thought was to protect and save others (this was the nature of his job), not the possibility of his own death. His current illness, however, had him thinking of his own death and he wondered if that meant he was going to die. He was calm and confident, believing he would go to Heaven when he died. We talked about how it felt to know that we are doing what God needs us to be doing while on earth. I didn't try to concoct any answers for him, just listened and shared what I thought when he asked. I think the conversation would have gone longer if we hadn't been interrupted by his doctor coming in. I was honored and blessed by his trusting me to share his most intimate beliefs and I told him so.

I never know what's going to transpire as I walk into a patient's room and I have to confess, the majority of them are simple, fairly short conversations. But there have been a few that will stick with me, mostly because I'm amazed that perfect strangers will open up to me because of the role I'm in – more of that "awesome responsibility" I keep discovering.

And I continue to be amazed …