End of Life

In the last few  years, I have walked with lots of people and their families through the journey of grief and loss as a chaplain. Death like birth can be a painful yet a very sacred moment.

I am currently home visiting my parents, and now I get to journey with my father as he journeys towards death. In the past year, my father discovered his kidneys have significantly being effected by his blood pressure medicine. In April of this year, my father’s kidney function was at 15% and he had a tremendous health scare before seeing a specialist at Duke hospital. Despite some critical changes to his meds, my father’s kidneys have continued to deteriorate: November it was at 12% and currently, my father’s kidneys are at 9% function.

The sadness is intensified by the fact that my father has chosen not to pursue medical measures like dialysis or seeking to get a kidney transplant. My father is a minister and he has told me that he is ready if it be God’s will. I respect my father’s choice and decision, but it still makes me deeply sad. I am not quite ready to let my father go…but it’s out of my control.

I have chosen to be with my parents the best I can and try to support my mom and dad. It feels different to navigate hospice as a son, even though I have helped many others navigate through the process of dying as a chaplain.

I usually have not been this vulnerable and personal on this blog, but I think I will continue to share my journey with accompanying my father through end of life and journeying with my mother as she goes through the process of grief. I don’t know if anyone is reading, but I need to write so the sadness does not swallow me whole.

I offer this prayer for both my family and all those journeying with someone as they approach end of life, and as they journey through the pain of it all:

Divine Creator,

May you bless this moment with all its pain, sadness, laughter and joy.

May we remember that each moment is sacred. May Your loving hold each one of us as we journey together to the unknown. Help us to walk with our loved one, and may You hold us in Your Light as we say goodbye and they journey home to You.

Thank you for the gift of Your love, the gift of family, and the gift of this very moment.

Why do I write?

I wanted to write a little manifesto for my readers and for myself to encourage myself and others to keep writing.

Reasons For Writing:

  1. I write to participate in an act of creating.
  2. I write to share my experiences with hopes that it might be helpful to someone else.
  3. I write poetry to put words to feelings I can’t always express in other ways.
  4. I write to reflect, and to grow.
  5. I write so I can remember where I have been, where I am going, but especially so I can open up to the now.

This is just a short list of why I write. Why do you write? I would love to hear your reasons why you write and create. Thanks for reading.

Becoming Anglican

Bishop John Guernsey laying of hands on me while offering prayer to welcome me into the Anglican Church at Redeemer Anglican. My Rector Dan in white robes.

It’s been a strange and amazing journey to finally find a tradition and a spiritual community to call home.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the Methodist Churches that formed me, the Catholic Church that welcomed me, and Quakers who gave me a home while I just needed to be able to sit with God in silence. I also owe an immense thanks to all the people who let me serve them as a chaplain and helped me embrace my pastoral identity.

Thought of the Day: Leading with the Heart

At the end of March, I switched roles from being a full time chaplain to a neighborhood leader of a memory care area at a retirement community. I’ve always been someone who leads from the side lines, and tries to empower others to make wise choices. I took this love, because I love caring for folks with cognitive challenges and walking with their family and friends; one of my challenges has been leading and supervising the care givers. I did not take on this job, because I wanted to be Health Service Administrator, but so I could grow as a pastor in my skills of administration and leadership.

I recently met with the executive director of my work place, and he handed a book called The Heart Led Leader by Tommy Spaulding. I am hoping spirituality and leadership can mix. The last few months have been both amazing in that I get to still build relationships and use my chaplain skills to care for residents, team members, and family members that are dealing with loss and grief. I also get to pray with folks, and sing songs with folks while I play my ukulele. All of the relational pieces of this job seems familiar and come natural to me, but things like scheduling, disciplining people when they consistently call out, and over seeing three different shifts has been a bit overwhelming.

A friend of mine one day stopped and told me, I think I know how to describe your job and said, “you’re like a small church pastor, you do a little bit of everything” I think her description was fitting, and I am thinking of running our household/neighborhood (the term we use instead of saying memory care unit) as if I am running a church. I realize that I’ve not given appropriate attention to the 11pm-7am team, and hope to earn their trust and lead with a heart.

I guess leading with the heart does not mean that I do not hold people accountable, and challenge them to correct things that are harmful to themselves, to the folks we care for, and to other team members. I hope that slowly over time that we can change are culture to be less institutional and be more like a home, or a little community…a neighborhood. I hope to develop this further in my future posts, and reflect on ways in which I can be grounded in a loving God, so I don’t loose sight of why I am in this role in the first place.