In the Eye of the Storm

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Bruce Springsteen fights the stigma of depression


I think it is courageous of such a famous musician to go public with his struggle with depression. I don’t know that it is safe for everyone, though. As a musician he is basically self-employed, but those with “bosses” may not have as much freedom to be honest as “the Boss.” It may give celebrities a bit more cache to have “issues;” for us ordinary folks it remains a stigma. But, yet, the more people like Bruce make it seem acceptable the more it will become so, hopefully.


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The normalcy of anxiety

hamsterstress“We should never exacerbate our suffering by trying to push our disquiet aggressively away. Our lack of calm isn’t deplorable or a sign of weakness. It is simply the justifiable expression of our mysterious participation in a disordered, uncertain world.”

In other words, anxiety is a normal state and part of the adventure of being human. Read this article in full and it will make you feel less crazy – I promise. In general I am enjoying reading articles on the Book of Life site and I recommend signing up for their newsletter if the book seems like too much information. That’s what I did and I am finding very useful insights.

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Praying up a storm!

prayerchangesthingsI have profound respect for UMC and Baptist ministers who can pray in such uplifting and deeply personal ways with patients and families. Coming from an Irish Catholic background I am genetically non-disposed to utter Amens and Thank you Lords during prayer. Catholic prayer is formulaic and stoic, though not less holy for being so. But I am learning from my Christian family to let go and let God, to speak out words of Amen and Yes, Lord, when the context calls for it as it did last night.

A man in his fifties had died after a ten year battle with cancer. The wife was waiting for her own UMC minister whose praying her husband loved. But meanwhile, as chaplain on call, I supported the family and offered a scripture reading. I committed to staying until their minister arrived and was greeted by a diminutive black woman with a clerical shirt and collar and a black and white skirt and fashionable black heels. She graciously acknowledged my presence and gave me the title minister which I didn’t correct- it not being the time for pedantic title swapping. She waited for the family to voice their feelings and then she signalled to join hands and began to sing in a crackly soprano, “It is well with my soul.”  I don’t think I would have the humility it takes to lead a song when singing isn’t your forte. But it was perfect. She moved into a reading of the 23rd psalm and then she began to pray.

Her prayer was simple with repeated use of phrases like Dear God, and Dear Lord and many, many thanks for God’s blessings. I am doing better with praying extemporaneously but I am not nearly as competent as she. For her it came naturally like water from a spring; with me I still feel I am stumbling and tumbling with rocks in my mouth and in my soul. I wish I could have recorded her prayer and studied it. her prayer went on and on but never felt too long. She gave voice to the faith of the family, to the love of the family, and to the pain of the loss. And the family and I gently added our quiet Amens.

So tonight, as I face another 12 hour overnight shift, I pray for the grace of prayer and the humility I need to stumble if that is what it takes to kearn to let go.

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Becoming an artist of loss

When I have spoken at memorial services I have often used the image of a tapestry or cloth for the human story and spoken of how the person who has died is nonetheless part of that tapestry for all time. A form of eternal life; being forever a part of the human story.


Loss makes artists of us all as we weave new patterns in the fabric of our lives.

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The grass isn’t always greener

I received a wonderful quote the other day:

The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.


As I move on to the next stage in my career, I take these words to heart and pray for the grace to bring water with me. I want to focus on what I have to offer and how I can continue to make a difference.

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I want to fix people

I have a problem I’m just beginning to admit: I want to fix people. I want to fix people by giving them a book, loaning them a CD, reading them a scripture passage. I want to fix people because their pain makes me feel so helpless. So, basically, I want to fix people because I want to make myself feel better. That takes a lot to admit. Because, after all, I’m a Chaplain now; I should know what I am doing. Well, maybe I don’t, completely, but I am learning.

fix you

  • I am learning that sometimes sitting with someone watching their garden and listening to music is better than trying to find the right words or prayers.
  • I am learning that if a patient is upset it is important to lean into the pain with them and wipe their snot, not look the other way and change the subject.
  • I am learning that there is no perfect book or prayer or scripture and sometimes simply admitting out loud that you are angry with God can be a prayer worth praying.
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Why you don’t need God to believe in eternal life

Excerpt from, “Grief Without Beliefs” from the Huffington Post.

I know that we’re alive through our offspring. You are physically an embodiment of your father’s biological and genetic essence. This includes everything from how you look to many of the behavioral and personality traits you have. In other words — and this is not an exaggeration — your father is literally alive through you, as mine is through me. For me, knowing that is incredibly powerful and comforting.

baby and old man

I know that we continue to exist through the earth. This is my attempt at being euphemistic about your fertilizer theory. As part of this huge reservoir of terrestrial carbon, we die and become part of the earth, which gives rise to new life, as it once gave rise to us. That is also very powerful to me in a more collective, worldly sense.


dna tree

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Sometimes it’s just about perspective

I found myself sitting on the floor the other day. The Alzheimer’s patient had covered her head in her cardigan. So I sat on the floor and she uncovered part of her head so I could see her face. We held hands and she squeezed mine. And then I talked and prayed with/for her; her son had told me she likes to pray and still attends church with him. She continued squeezing.

Sometimes that’s enough to know you have made a difference in someone’s day. It wasn’t the words as much as the willingness to sit where she could see me without giving up what was making her feel secure. I wouldn’t have made that connection unless I had been willing to sit beneath her eye level.

Maybe there’s a metaphor here: enter yourself into someone else’s perspective, don’t wait for them to come to yours.

Isn’t that what empathy is all about? Feeling with? I wonder what difference that would make to public discourse these days if we were all willing to “sit ourselves below” someone’s fear or anger and try to connect with how they are feeling, how they are making sense of things?



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a raised brow

light glimmers and is gone

a word remembered

a face

a name brushes against her mind


like a kiss on the cheek

Are you still here or did you go away and come back

I like it here but I wish I were home

Can I go home with you?

Do I know you?

Turner Classic Movies on the TV screen

Cary Grant

Do I like him?

You remind me of someone


Advertisement for tennis rackets

Did you ever play tennis?

 Well I just don’t know


Can I come again

Sure, any time



New Orleans, Louisiana

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