Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Endings

I’ve had some time away from the hospital this week and that has given me some much needed to both rest and reflect. As I was driving to church this morning I thought about a party that I think summarizes a lot of my reflection. A friend of mine had invited me to go to a Halloween party hosted by some friends of hers. "Wear my fanta costume another time, sure!" I thought. Just before we left for the party she said, “oh yeah, it’s an AA Halloween party.” That perked my curiosity, an AA party... But leaving the party I felt rejuvenated. The party was a blast—there were couples, families with children, and singles all dressed in their finest Halloween attire. I loved watching people interact. Some of them called each other special names—“sober Suzanne” or brother and sister. In interacting with them it was clear that they knew deep intimate facts about one another—each other’s histories, hardships, joys… And I knew that they were supporting one another in this journey to become healthier people. While I'm sure that AA is not an easy process--seeing this was a joyous thing. A group of people helping each other and leaning on God to have happier endings.

Happy endings. Back in September, that’s what I said that I was most not excited about CPE. I said—I like happy endings. The hospital doesn’t always have happy endings. Death. Losing one’s independence. Chronic sickness. I have learned that life isn’t always happy endings, and I need to accept that. And sometimes things that don't seem like happy endings to me really are happy endings to others. The AA party was so exciting to me because I saw people actively headed towards a more whole lifestyle. And there are many in the hospital that are actively working towards more whole lifestyles. But there are also those that are not. It was a huge contrast—the party signified life to me, not death. But God gave us both life and death. The quote from Ray Anderson hit me again. To paraphrase him he said that, “love has to be big enough to encompass the tragic.” He went on to say that when a person is born, it is inevitable that a person will die. A birth means another grave must be dug. Wow. What an unpleasant picture. What a truthful picture. And this image was reinforced as I was doing my nightly devotion time last night. Ecclesiastes 3:20 says, “all come from dust and to dust all return.” This is reality. I hate this reality sometimes. But this is reality. I trying to make my love bigger to encompass the tragic.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


On Monday I begin week 6 of my CPE internship. I haven't blogged since I started because a. I haven't had a lot of time and b. it is hard to really put into words my experience of the last 5 weeks. I'll try my best to put an update in a few tidbits...

--A large part of CPE is group time. We meet 3 times a week for several hours to go over written reflections and encourage and challenge one another. I am in a diverse group of people...myself, another twenty something, a 67 year old, and then 3 coworkers that have 24 year old daughters. There are 3 women and 3 men and we are facilited by a supervisor. I was concerned at how the age difference would play out but it turns out that I could not ask for a better group. We all have our differences but in the end it's a really safe space to try new things and process what we are doing on the hospital floors.

--I am the chaplain for 2 units: a floor that has patients that need to be monitored at all times but aren't serious enough to be in ICU--it's kind of a catch all unit; and a rehabilitation unit. It's been fun to get to know the staffs on both units-I am continually amazed by the hard work of nurses! On my catch all floor the patients leave every couple days so I rarely see them more than once. But on my rehab unit patients stay around 2 weeks...sometimes more. Yesterday I celebrated with a patient that had been in rehab for 6 weeks--she had been there longer than I had. While I enjoy being a chaplain on the catch all floor I have to admit I love the rehab unit because I can get to know the patients and their families so much better.

--I also am on call about once a week--a time when I get called in no matter what hour of the day. So far there haven't been any middle of the night calls but I'm betting I'll have at least one before it's over.

--I totally see why CPE is required for all PCUSA ordination canidates. I have been confronted in dealing with issues including--death, terminal illness, bioethic end of life issues, growing old... It hasn't been easy for me to deal with the stuff but I do realize that all of these things are facts of life. I was reading over my systematic theology notes from Ray Anderson and he said that "love has to be big enough to encompass the tragic...realize that when a baby is born then it is inevitable that that baby will be a person who will die." It's not a pleasant image but it is realistic... So I do feel like I am being prepared to be in ministry and also be a more whole person in general.

--There are many more things I could share... patients that have touched my heart, situations that have pushed me more than I could have ever imagined, putting my theology into practice, and the development of my professional and pastoral identities... But for now I want to celebrate that I am halfway done, and that, my friends, is exciting.