Friday, December 21, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Seeps Senior Snaps

These are my first attempt at senior pictures. It's hard to believe that my niece is a senior this year. It seems like yesterday when she was pulling my Bill The Cat stuffed animal around our apartment. Time flies. So proud of all she has accomplished and the young lady she is.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

East Coast 2012

 Playing in DC

 Grounds for Sculpture - NJ
Cape May NJ
Princeton Seminary Chapel

Princeton University Chapel Door

J got a ball at the Phillies game

DC at night

Please don't be a meanie

Nat's new boyfriend. Don't make him angry.

Yeah - those are my kids. At the Nut House. Cape May NJ.

Love this pic. Grounds for Sculpture NJ.

He was out. The ump got the right call.

Go Yankees
Grounds for Sculpture

Bury Me Here

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Been awhile...

Haven't posted in awhile. Not sure why. Lazy, I guess. I did come across something today that I wanted to post at some time. Just an experience I had during my chaplaincy training. And a picture from our recent trip to the East coast - Eastern State Penitentiary.

Life and Death

They say you always remember your first.

I hope I will.

A sacred narrative. Well, a narrative is an account of an event or story in the life of the one who is sharing it. Add sacred to the title and to me it means holy. A holy moment where the world that we live in intersects with one that is “other” than ours.

The first thing I remember was being paged by our administrative assistant and the text said - “Peds Ed needs a chaplain now.” I called the office, asked what the situation was and was told by Janet, “The Children's ED needs a pediatric chaplain, can you please go.” It was about my second month into my CPE residency program on the Pediatric Units. It was also about 4:00 pm, an hour later than when my mentor who is the staff pediatric chaplain leaves for the day. As I walked down the hallway my heart was racing as I considered the possibilities of  what I might find when I arrived.

I remember coming around the corner into the unit - the busy-ness, the white-ness, the commotion, and the noise. I remember the distraught looking couple sitting across the narrow hall from the trauma room which had the curtain drawn but had the slider door open – the sounds of hard work being done on the other side of that red curtain. The police with their clipboards standing by the weeping female and the blank faced male who had his hand on her shoulder.

My eyes see all this – my brain tries to process all this. I think my pupils were probably a little larger than usual. I stand against the counter directly across from the open glass slider door. I remember a social worker informing me of the circumstances surrounding the patient and why the police are here. “It's suspicious how she was found – a blanket in her mouth.”

Now we are in the room. We = everybody. It is cramped. Loud. Monitors, shouting, chest compressions all drowned out by the sobs and screams of a mother. There are lots of people around the bed and I can't see. I can't see the center of all the attention. I see the parents, the doctors, the nurses, the bright overhead light. I want to see but then again, I don't. Can I handle it? Can I handle this? My hand touches the shoulder of the father.

I remember seeing her for the first time. It was her foot. In between the bodies cramped and huddled around her bed. Her foot. Her precious – five toed – 5 year old foot. Can I handle this? What in the world do I have to offer these parents? My thoughts are interrupted by the doctor looking from across the bed at the parents - “I'm sorry, there is nothing more we can do. I'm sorry.”

I remember the mom collapsing into the father's arms. Slowly the crowd clears and I see for the first time the body of the 5 year old girl lying lifeless on the brightly lit bed. She is wrapped in a blanket and we arrange chairs so that her mother and father can hold her one last time. Time blurs, words are said, and I find myself alone in the room with the father and his daughter and it is silent. What do I say? Should I say anything? Silence. What would I want if I was in his place? I take in the room. The remnants of all the efforts of the medical team litter the floor. The room looks like a train hit it. A wrapper here, some plastic thing there, blood droplets on the sheet. I remember her little leggings, red, wadded up as if my own daughter had thrown them on the bed after changing out of them for something else. I watch the father hold his daughter. Stroking her head, kissing her forehead, checking to make sure she is covered. I see him break into tears periodically and then compose himself and then start the cycle over again. I wonder what he's thinking. I feel like I am standing guard. I reassure myself, rightly or wrongly, that if he is comfortable with the silence than I will honor it.

I remember the social worker coming in and reassuring him that his wife is okay. He remains silent. She states that maybe I can help him talk about his feelings.   She leaves to go back with the mom who is with a friend in the waiting room. We talk. He looks down blankly through his tears, still holding his lifeless daughter in his arms, stating that his dad was a chaplain in Colorado and he was on his way. It is good to hear that but how can anything about this be good?

The medical examiner comes in (I still had a lot to learn about claiming my space and authority) and interrupts our connection. Facts are gathered, questions are asked,  mom comes back in and I find myself wanting to protect these parents from any one or thing that would cause more hurt. His daughter would have to be examined he explained to both parents. By now suspicion had gave way to protocol. The child had been prone to seizures and had a pre-existing condition. It is routine I would find out that every pediatric emergency is automatically a M.E. case.

I remember the parents being told that they were encouraged not to watch the examination so I asked them if they would like me to stay with their daughter while they waited outside. Yes, I will stay. As I reflect on watching that exam I think back to my very first exposure to CPE. A fellow seminarian stated about his own experience that he had “seen things he never wanted to see.” At that time I imagined broken bones, bloody faces, and gore. Now I think he may have meant something different.  When the exam was over, I reflected to the M.E., “You have a hard job.” He replied, “I will never get used to this and I don't want to ever get used to this. I've been doing this for over 30 years and if I ever lose sensitivity it is time for me to hang up the badge because I wouldn't be human.” I thought to myself, I would want him to examine my daughter.

The parents are allowed back in. They listen to and watch the child life specialists make foot castings of their daughter – a memorial they will receive before they leave the hospital. They spend the last precious moments with their daughter before it is time for the M.E. to take the body. Physical separation is hard to watch and walking them through the E.R. to the private family waiting room was nothing short of gut-wrenching. The next time they would see their daughter would be in a casket. The dad was in shock – catatonic almost. The mom was having difficulty just controlling her breathing – so we breathed together. A friend came, the castings dried, and I escorted them all out to their car. These are all things I remember.

But one thing I will never forget. In the midst of one of the most horrible things I have ever witnessed there was a blessing. A blessing in the form of a little African American girl about the same age as the girl who died. You see, as I was waiting so terrified and anxious out in front of the Peds Trauma Room, she appeared. Beads in her hair and a bright smile on her face. I barely noticed her – she was almost out of place. I suppose her parents were in a small waiting room right next to the trauma room. I just happened to look over and there she was – staring at me. So I winked. And she winked back. I gave her a head shake. She gave me one right back. We played this game of give and take for about 5 minutes I suppose. I didn't think much of it until reflecting with my CPE group later. One of our group suggested that she might have been an angel. Maybe. What I am convinced of is that God was speaking to me in a language very familiar to me – the playfulness of a little child – that He was there.  It was one of those messages that spoke directly to my heart. Life and Death – so close together. It represents the tension of this ministry – it brings the hardest things I've ever had to experience but there is no where else I'd rather be.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The darkness was...

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining.