Tagged With A Lie

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.79

At hospice, I wear a nametag with five bits of information. One is a lie.

IMG_3629My name is Larry Patten.

My employer’s name is Hinds Hospice; one of their core values is “honoring the journey.”

2012 correctly indicates the year Hinds Hospice began writing paychecks to me (a.k.a. the aforementioned Larry Patten).

My job title is the lie: Bereavement Support Specialist.

It’s a quiet lie, an innocent deceit. It’s a label that benignly fulfills the needs of the human resources department. After all, everyone getting those paychecks should have a formal title.

But I know I am not a specialist when it comes to bereavement.

I don’t have the educational background. For example my boss has earned various degrees in her career as a counselor. One of them is CT. She is “Certified” in “Thanatology.” Whoa! The Greek word for death is thanos. Regardless of the meanings in Greek or English, she has completed courses and been supervised by experts to understand issues related to death. Continue reading

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The Divine Lunge

Genesis 32:22-31 – The 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for August 3, 2014

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” (Genesis 32:24)

Jacob traveled to seek favor—forgiveness—from his brother Esau.

Jacob sent his family on ahead and remained by the River Jabbok.

River. Sunset. Night approaching...

River. Sunset. Night approaching…

It was night, with the heat of the day finally easing. The Jabbok flowed, a liquid ribbon of life among the arid hills and barren ridges. Stars glittered overhead, nocturnal jewels. A breeze soothed Jacob’s skin, carrying the smoky remnants of old campfires and lingering fragrance of his departed family.

Jacob was alone, and yet not alone.

In a darkness only partly caused by night, Jacob waited. He was alone with the countless promises that he’d broken and made and broken again, the old lies he’d crafted and sold as the truth, the shameful acts that moaned from the hidden corners of his soul.

Jacob was alone, and yet not alone.

Why did he wait?

Why had he sent his wives and children across the Jabbok?

Had Jacob intuited something, in the murmuring of the river or in the whisper of wind, which had prompted him to stay?

And then, so said Genesis, a man wrestled Jacob. It would be a brutal struggle, lasting the night, without rules, with neither adversary relenting, with Jacob sustaining injury and still fighting on.

Like Jacob we live much of our lives in darkness. But if we’re busy-busy from dawn to dusk, or if we have that rare stretch of dreamless sleep, we pretend to temporarily escape or ignore the darkness. Though often enough, the darkness of our fears find us. Continue reading

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Put Me To Sleep, Doctor

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.78

The freshly cut flowers Mom's sister and niece brought to the hospital room.

The freshly cut flowers Mom’s sister and niece brought to the hospital room.

I inwardly shuddered when Mom bluntly spoke to the doctor, but tried to appear calm on the surface. Regardless of any success or failure in hiding my feelings, no one in the hospital room was paying attention to me. We were focused on the surgeon’s visit with Mom.

“They put pets out of their misery,” Mom said. “Why can’t you do that with me?”

If the doctor replied, I don’t remember his comments. In his forties, he resembled other doctors who’d visited Mom after her operations because of his white lab coat, but also different because he sat beside her as if to physically declare he’d stay as long as necessary. Other doctors—there were many—had stood, smiled unconvincingly, and soon fled her room.

In July of 2013, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. Because the cancer had grown so rapidly in her eighty-eight year old body, the doctors couldn’t pinpoint it origins. They called it stage 4, if only because that’s the highest number oncologists apply to cancers. But the cancer was no longer the worst of Mom’s concerns. Surgery had been attempted to provide relief from the relentless spread of tumors. Though I won’t share details, her first surgery failed. She had another surgery the next day. I suppose the second effort “succeeded,” except its aftermath left her with weeks, if not months, of recovery. She was stitched together by rows of metal staples, which appeared like the tips of landmines on the battlefield of her abdomen. Mom referred to the staples as, “My barbed wire.” They were still there when she died a few weeks later.

“Put me to sleep, Doctor.” Continue reading


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Anyone Found A Pez Dispenser?

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 – The 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, July 27, 2014

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid…” (Matthew 13:44)

In early July 2014, Mr. Jason Buzi continued his Hidden Cash social media “experiment” by hiding envelopes with money in Fresno’s Woodward Park. According to the Fresno Bee . . .

Thousands of people descended on Woodward Park in north Fresno—triggering a traffic jam at the park entrances—after hints began flowing on Twitter and Facebook shortly before 5:30 p.m. Some people were sniffing around in the sprawling park on instinct, however, even before the first tweeted hints.

Nearly $1,900 was hidden in various locations in the park, tucked away in envelopes and Pez candy dispensers.

Buzi, who apparently uses his own money, placed silver dollars in some envelopes and as much as $75 in currency in others. He stuffed $125 in the Pez dispensers. But Fresno was not unique. Either Mr. Buzi or one of his friends has unleashed the Hidden Cash treasure hunt from the San Francisco area to Southern California. There are plans for London, Paris, Madrid, and more! Stay alert! There may be euros and pounds joining dollars in this search for . . .

Search for what? Treasure?

Jesus’s briefest of parables (Matthew 13:44) described a different treasure hunt:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Is the kingdom of heaven like a traffic jam as people crowd into a park, probe bushes with sticks, peer under park benches and elbow and curse (and cheer) each other as they pursue a repurposed Pez dispenser? Continue reading

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The Little Blue Book

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.77

The "Little Blue Book"

The “Little Blue Book”

It’s often referred to as the “little blue book.” Or more simply, hospice’s “blue book.” For hospice professionals, the “blue book” may be the most familiar and commonly used resource given to patients and families.

Everybody should have a copy and read it.

But no one wants to. And no one should want to, until it’s time.

Barbara Karnes, a hospice nurse, published what amounted to a fancy pamphlet in 1985 entitled “Gone From My Sight.” Millions and millions of copies later, the blue-covered book with the picture of a ship on the front remains in print. The official title—“Gone From My Sight”—was inspired by a poem that described death as sailing away from one shore and toward a distant, unseen shore. The poem has easy-to-understand imagery and doesn’t emphasize one religious experience over another. Neither does it, because it uses metaphoric language, ignore the spirituality of dying and death, of fearing and preparing for the last moments with a loved one. Or for the first moments without that loved one. Continue reading

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