I Am Always Right

Matthew 18:15-20 – The 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, September 7, 2014

“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together…” (Matthew 18:15)

Before knowing my father had dementia, I blamed his vexing behaviors on other things.

Dad was elderly and tired. His hearing was awful (and had been for years). He’d become human cement, set in his ways. He resented, as his body weakened, his loss of independence.

So when he lashed out at me during a visit to Mom and Dad’s home, with his eyes ablaze and jaw clenched and his voice sounding more animal growl than human grumble, I knew where to point my finger: at those “other things.”

“Get out of this house,” he roared. “Don’t come back.”

Dad’s fury, launched at me with the unnerving abruptness of a lightning strike when the storm is miles away, happened several times before my family recognized he had dementia.

Whether or not you recognize what a Pharisee is (hey, not everyone that reads my stuff reads the Bible!), feel free to substitute someone or some group that you "know" is wrong...

Whether or not you recognize what a Pharisee is (hey, not everyone who reads my stuff reads the Bible!), feel free to substitute someone or some group that you “know” is wrong…

I recall how I felt when my father, the lion in winter, verbally assaulted me. What a cranky old fool! Such a stubborn jerk!

And this too: how dare he sin against me? His son! His guest!

I did not retreat from his fury. Remember, I didn’t know of his dementia. I had those other excuses. I tried to engage him in conversation, to comprehend his leave-my-house demand. I did not return his anger with my anger, or his hurt with my hurt. Like the Gospel of Matthew encouraged, “if your brother or sister [or father] sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together.”

Of course, in the New Testament’s Greek, there wasn’t a reference to “sister” in the scripture. But we moderns, desiring to be modern, readily and rightly add “sister” in the interpretation. Women are equal opportunity sinners too, right?

And so are fathers. So was Dad. Continue reading

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Me? Stubborn?

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.83

70-90% of the population is right-handed. I’m one of them. When recovering from carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist in 2013, I was confronted with complicated obstacles like . . .

  • Negotiating all aspects of being on or near a toilet (I’m keeping descriptions G-rated).
  • Zipping any zipper.
  • Tucking in my shirt.
  • Brushing my teeth.
  • Washing my left hand.
  • Putting on my dog’s collar.
  • Taking a shower.

StubbornMany other commonplace movements became a chore, an hourly and daily obstacle course of once “thoughtless” activities. Fortunately, I have a wife willing to lend a hand. Unfortunately, I’m a stubborn guy. She offered to help with my shirt-tucking endeavors. No thank you. Can I help you zip that zipper? I’ve got it! I relented on the shower. There’s only so much time in the day and who wants to spend significant clock time air-drying rather than using a towel?

My ordeal lasted barely a week. After the surgeon removed the bandages and stitches, I began to reclaim (and rejoice in) my ability to accomplish simple stuff. I quickly returned to being privately stubborn, a two-handed guy who could take care of himself, thank you very much. Continue reading

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Hospice Matters

imageI’m pondering something different with my weekly musings on hospice. While I assume a few people read what I write, I’m not sure many people who are actively and seriously searching for information on hospice will ever stumble across this larrypatten.com site.

So, what if I come up with a snazzy name for a new blog that will help people find me?

Something that (with apologies to the postal service) will be my “stamp.”

I could easily link the new blog to my “main” website, but a hospice-related blog could also wander out into the Internet on its own . . . hopefully gaining the attention of folks asking and wondering and worrying about all things hospice.

Names do matter! I do think I should have “hospice” in the name to help Internet searches. Should it be somber? Should it be neutral? Should it be cute or funny?

I’d love your feedback on names I am considering. And . . . do you have suggestions? What I’ve thought of so far: Continue reading

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At the Bush that Kept Burning

Exodus 3:1-15 – The 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, August 31, 2014

“But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

After Moses was raised in luxury within the house of pharaoh, after he attacked and murdered an Egyptian, after he secretly buried the body in the sand, after he was frightened for his life, after he became a fugitive from justice, after he hid in a faraway country, after he strong-armed some shepherds and flexed his muscles for seven frightened (but impressed) women, after he was married and touted as a hero even as he continued to live a lie, Moses had a life-changing “and yet” moment.

burning-bush1A bush burned and yet was not consumed.

After the Creator, the One above all others, the One given many names and without a name had created the world, after calling Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, after declaring those who would be the chosen people, after triumphant glory and troubling disappointments from those God created, after the time of Joseph and abundance, after forgetting the creation, after the years and decades and generations of slavery and oppression that the chosen experienced, the Creator had a divine and decisive “and yet” moment.

A bush burned and yet was not consumed.

And yet.

That simple phrase informs my understanding of how God works. For me, “and yet” is a reminder that “there’s more to come, more to learn and more to be surprised by.”* Each week, as with these musings on the encounter in the wilderness between God and Moses, I find a way to work “and yet” into my Biblical wonderings. It’s a gimmick. It’s my so-called (laugh out loud here) brand. Sometimes, when revising an essay, I’ll discover I didn’t use it in the first draft! When that happens, I’ll make sure to find a spot to put it into a sentence. In other words, the two-word conjunction wasn’t crucial for conveying my message, but I felt I had to try to force it in.

That’s the burden of gimmicks. Continue reading

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DNR

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.82

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In 2011, in England, 81-year old Joy Tomkins got a tattoo: “Do Not Resuscitate.”

I overheard a chaplain chatting with a social worker about a patient.

“She asked me,” the chaplain said, “if a DNR order would interfere with her getting to heaven.”

The two hospice staff kept slowly moving away from me. I don’t know if the social worker responded, or what the chaplain had explained to the patient after she asked her heavenly question. Maybe my colleagues continued discussing this patient or shifted to other subjects.

I’m not sure anyone could tell the patient about heaven’s entry requirements. Different faith traditions have different views of the “better place” after death. Humans have pondered Valhalla and Nirvana and Paradise and Heaven for millennia. I’ve read and heard some Christians describe heaven as more difficult to enter than an Ivy League school. I’ve read and heard other believers claim the “pearly gates” are wide and welcoming for every soul.

Heaven’s rules may be mysterious or debatable, but what about DNR? That was the part of the patient’s question that kept nudging me. It stands for Do Not Resuscitate, and according to webmd.com, it is, Continue reading

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