Wednesday, May 24, 2006

One of those weeks...

And it's only Wednesday....
Church on Sunday. This time, did NOT give a 100 word sermon!
Much to the disappointment of some of my folks! Monday in the office trying to complete a funeral bulletin for my aunt's service on Tuesday, and a complete program for an ordination on Wednesday. Finished both late.
Tuesday to Meridian where I celebrated and preached the funeral of my wonderful Aunt Sharlie. Got lots of great help from family members, her other nephews, some grand nieces and nephews. Church was packed, which was very sweet since she had not lived in that town for 30 years. We had a private ceremony at the cemetary for family afterwards. It's quite difficult to do these services for loved ones, but an honor as well. And some sweet older lady on the way out said "I've been going to funerals in the Episcopal church for 63 years and that was the best funeral homily I've ever heard"! I am sure my aunt got a kick out of that.
Wednesday we transformed the gym once again, adding seating and decorating with a red backdrop and actually used a red frontal that an adopting church sent us. The place looked GOOD! We had a packed house as we welcomed The Reverend Patrick Sanders, former youth minister of my church and the Episcopal church's newest transitional deacon. The service went VERY well, it's a LOT of work to put an ordination together - he was very appreciative and it was a great night. Wonderful reception afterwards in a tent in front of the school. I was so very proud of my folks - altar guild, hospitality, choir, verger, many hard workers to make this a special night for Patrick and his family.
Lots to do in the office tomorrow, around awards day at my son's school. Then get ready to leave, again! Accompanying our youth group to D.C., leaving 5 am Saturday morning and returning Wednesday. Wish me luck!! Think I should go to bed.....

Friday, May 19, 2006


My travels have continued the last couple of weeks. Much of it was spent in Birmingham at the hospital bedside of my mom's only sibling, who was dying from breast cancer.
My aunt died this past Tuesday morning at 4:30 am. The LW and I, along with her best friend of over 50 years (my aunt was only 60) and her Priest, who was also a dear friend of hers, were all with her.
Bham is abut 5 1/2 hours from here and this was our second trip to be with her in less than a week. Let me tell you, folks, if you don't all have your act together on Living wills, advance directives, power of attorney for health care, and your actual will, SHAME ON YOU. Although, as this story taught me, even having all that stuff does not make this easy.
My aunt had specific instructions not to be on life support, etc. As it became more evident this was the end for her, we (her family) found ourselves at odds with the team of doctors trying to "save" her. They eventually put her on a ventilator, for comfort, which we understood, but we also feared it would be most difficult to remove it. It WAS.
Sunday morning one doc called to say her lab results from a biopsy were back (finally) and the cancer had indeed spread throughout her body. We had suspected as much, as she was so very ill. Surgery was not an option and he said it was time to extubate and make her comfortable. He said he would wait until we got there.
We drove up after church, but when we arrived he and her oncologist had changed their mind! The oncologist especially was being completely unreasonable. I complained as high up the chain as you can on a Sunday night in a hospital, to no avail. We checked into a hotel.
Monday morning we began to meet with the various docs. The oncologist told us that my aunt had clearly told him to "do all you can" and that overrode any living will stuff. He held out hope the cancer was not breast cancer, but rather colon cancer and could be cut out. He obviously had not read the lab report. This was so frustrating. We waited all day until her surgeon, also her friend, showed up and after one look at her and the reports (her heart was really struggling too), stated he would not operate now or ever on her - it was time to help her die as peacefully as possible. All this time my aunt was heavily sedated. In my view, she was already gone, with a machine breathing for her.
The surgeon's report convinced her primary doc, ALSO her friend (she had this affect on everyone), to agree to extubate. He wanted to call the oncologist as a courtesy. Then we were told (by a nurse, this was all by phone with her doctor) since he could not reach the oncologist we would have to wait another day! Well, that was it for me. I got very angry and emotional that my poor aunt was being put through the VERY THING she had said all her life she did not want. I walked out of her room in tears, only to see the primary doc come running over. He was worried that my wife and I were having to drive home, and he did not think that fair to us. He decided to go ahead and remove the vent, and to tell the oncologist whenever he talked to him. Thank you Lord.
My aunt was extubated at 530 pm. She died at 430 am. We were with her the entire time. She died peacefully without a struggle. It was an honor and privilege to be with her. I truly believe part of the fight with these doctors was because they all really loved and cared for her - if you met her, you had no choice! Her life was too short, but the impact was broad and deep, a more caring and compassionate person I have never known.
I will be doing her funeral next Tuesday in her home town. It will be difficult, to say the least, but another privilege for me.
My LW, who has worked in hospice, was amazing during all this. Her care for my aunt and her dealings with the staff were such a gift. The fantastic nurses on the CCU who cared for her were also heros, and supported us the whole time. My aunt's priest is a super guy and he grieves deeply for her. God was with us all.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Travelin' and a dream

I used to love to travel, especially by air. Now days I don't think anyone likes it. And with gas prices what they are, it becomes more difficult to justify driving vs. flying. When it takes all day to fly somewhere (because we only have direct flights to Atlanta, Memphis, or Houston), plus all the hassel, I had gotten where I would drive every chance I could. But economics now make that decision harder.
I went to Alabama two weeks ago, drove to Kanuga, NC last week for a Province IV meeting, and looks like I will drive about 12 hours this Fri and Sat for a fund raising opportunity for my Parish rebuilding efforts. Lots of time in the car, but sometimes that's ok.
Two weeks ago the LW and I drove to Orange Beach, AL for a FREE respite vacation sponsored by the Foundation for the Mid South and other ministry organizations. We joined 15 other clergy and spouses from the Katrina-affected area. It was good to meet and hear stories from these folks, although I must say our theology regarding the storm was very different in most cases. I was the only Episcopal clergy person, all the rest were Baptist, Methodist, or Church of Christ or non-denom. Yet their passion for the work was inspiring and it was good to be with others who are in the midst of this tragedy. I spent most of my time doing what I needed most - resting. Slept late, laid on the beach, played in the surf with my son, read, slept some more. It was a nice, post-Holy Week retreat.
One night while there I had a dream. I was back at seminary with a lot of classmates (see post below on our classmate, Larry, who died Palm Sunday). I am sure Larry's memorial service was on my brain. I was conducting some sort of seminar, and the audience included teachers, students, and family members and folks who live here. When I had finished my presentation, a disturbing thing happened - I walked over to a classmate and began to sob on his shoulder - begging him not to make me "go back there". I wailed and cried and was so disturbed, I made myself wake up (I do that a lot when dreaming).
I wonder what it could mean...............