Healthcare: Who will pay?

mhBLxSaOver at RevGalBlogPals I wrote a thing… you can find it here (but here’s a sample…)

Without subsidies, they will not be able to afford to keep him at home. His daughter shrugged and said that it will end up costing the government more to put him in a nursing home, because he has no financial resources. “What’s the sense in that?” she asks me. “If we keep him at home, it will cost one-third to a half of the monthly cost of a facility.”

I appreciate your taking the time to read and reflect on this with me.

Friday

I sat in this room alone for a bit at noon today. It was the only space in the facility where I was seeing patients that the television was not blasting the inaugural festivities for #45. 

Feeling a bit nauseous, I retreated. I. Could. Not. Watch. Props to you if you did. I couldn’t. 

A coworker joined me in solidarity for a few moments. We shared in the silence. The frustration. The WTF-ness of it all. 

I went back to my patients. For to the dying, the whereabouts and pontificating of a bunch of billionaires mean nothing. 

I counted breaths. Held hands. Found tissues. Read words of eternal Hope. 

And that was a fitting focus of my efforts. 
Tomorrow… we march!!

Book Review: The End of the Island

IMG_9952In a chaplain’s world, theodicy is that delicate and difficult balance of the gut-wrenching work of understanding why the Divine allows evil and human suffering. Human as we are, there is such a temptation to distill the work of theodicy into neat little pieces. As if pain, suffering, loss and grief would EVER be done “neatly.”

Many books attempt to express this through allegory or rigid theological systems. Instead of a systematic expression, however, Tucker places his allegory in a kind of contextual theology. Thus I approached this book with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Jeffrey Tucker takes as his muse “The Happy Prince,” a children’s short story written by Oscar Wilde. (You can read it on-line here…)  In the postscript of his book he delves into some of the influences of that story in his work as a chaplain. It’s worth reading first before you delve into the topics his work contains. I would have liked him to develop his own perspective on why he thinks he might be the Prince. It would have given his story a better foundation, for this reader, anyway.

The book is organized around the narrative of an old man traveling “to the end of the island” – a journey he feels he must make as his “time is short.” The “journey” is expressed via short vignettes, spread out over several chapters, each addressing a different question as it relates to human suffering. The questions include:

  • Where is my Suffering?
  • Where am I in my Suffering?
  • Where is the Divine in my Suffering?
  • Where is my Human Support?
  • Where are my Hope and my Deliverance?
  • Re-Defining Forward Movement
  • Finding the End of the Island

On the journey, the old man meets several individuals who help him re-examine what he is experiencing, where he is going, what he hopes to find, and what other lessons might be part of his journey. I particularly liked the author’s reflections in chapter 4 on “Where is the Divine in my Suffering?” His analogy of God being in both the tidal wave and the tidal marsh were poignant and personally meaningful to me.

At first, this structure is somewhat confusing and disjointed. (Perhaps a better “How to Use This Book” section is needed?) However, because of the nature of the questions which Tucker addresses, having “space” in between the sections of the old man’s story is helpful for allowing the reader to engage and reflect. This is not a book to read at one sitting. In fact, if you rush through it, you will miss the beauty of the struggle in this journey we are all on – of life and death, of hope and discouragement, of suffering and release.

Tucker’s premise is that our life’s journeys are not about “solving” the problem of pain. It is not meant to provide simple strategies or pointers. There aren’t Bible verses to read and write down your reflections with Jesus as your Best Friend in suffering and God always bringing healing and relief. (In fairness, there were many places where I found it was easy enough to be drawn back into Scripture and journal. It just was more raw than pretty, honest than victorious.)

This book is also going to make the more conservative readers among us a tad uncomfortable, for the author invites us to dwell with the wider views of spirituality, and to engage in mindfulness practices around the journey we are all struggling through. However, you will be invited to explore fresh and new ways of walking through your own personal, painful, rough patches. And that, in itself, is enough. For God is enough.

As the author says, “The totality of all our questions will never be resolved completely. For remember, I am talking here about movement – not a neat, linear journey.”

Here’s to the messiness and the reality that God is there in the mix. Always.

*****

The End of the Island by Jeffrey C. Tucker. © 2016 Eugene, OR. Resource Publications (Wipf and Stock): Paperback, 156 pages.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided this book without cost from the publisher and was not required to give a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Hogtied. And it sucks.

I’m struggling with how to write (and what to write).  Recently the agency I worked for had another “advisory” against posting ANYTHING on social media that might contain PHI (Personal Health Information).

I don’t think I’ve ever crossed the line. But now I’m anxious.

If I describe a situation, or a person’s funny reaction to something I said, or reference a place where I visit patients… it could be a HIPAA violation. If I share a story that creates a pattern/suggestion of a person’s story, it’s not allowed. We were told: “If it could be read by the patient and/or the family member and recognized as being THEIR situation, it’s a violation.”

Well now…

So what do I write about? Some generically-edited, sanitized version of my work? What I ate for dinner? My spiritual journey is intimately tied to my Calling. My writing is meshed with my spirituality and faith.

I don’t want to write always looking over my shoulder. So, until I figure out how to dot all the HIPAA “i’s” AND be authentic, my blogging will be even less frequent.

Yep, I’m hogtied. It. Sucks.

I have no words…

2014-08-04 19.49.57

I have
no words
to share
what’s on my heart.
I have only
tears
and prayers,
and the promise
that You, O Lord,
will walk through this valley
with me.

I have
no wisdom
to give
in this place of grief.
I have only
hugs
and tissues,
and the blessing
of knowing Your peace,
as our hearts
are in pieces.

I have
no tears
to cry
because (quite honestly) my well is dry.
I have only
the promise
of the resurrection
and that You, O Lord,
watch our laboring steps
and shower us
with Love.

Rev. Deb Vaughn
June 26, 2016

I Will Hold Your Story

In my work as a chaplain, I am privileged to listen and reflect with those who are brought into my circle of care. I am not the only one who listens to these patients. Nurses. Social workers. Physicians. Nursing assistants. Even the food service and environmental service staff! We all are part of the patient’s journey towards wellness. We provide services, relieve pain and pressure, and make sure the patient’s and family’s needs are heard and met.

Sometimes in hospice work, however, we do not have tasks we can do. We provide the gift of Presence. Of listening. Of hearing and holding stories. It is a privilege and a blessing.

 

Patient
© 2011 Medill DC, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

When the Time Comes

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will listen to the words you do not say.
I will honor the memories that spring to mind,
suddenly, wildly, impetuously,
as if they must be remembered.
They must be said aloud or be forgotten forever.

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will laugh with you
(even though it hurts to laugh)
until the tears rolls down our cheeks,
and we gasp for breath,
As if you will never laugh again.

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will hold mementos and souvenirs.
I will cherish photos with you.
I will look at faces from your youth,
faded on paper, but not in your heart.
I will help you speak their names.

When the time comes, I will hold your story.
I will honor your faith.
I will celebrate the loves of your life.
I will clean my cheeks with my tears.
I will lift a glass in memory of your life.
I will remember…
And then some day,
Someone will hold my story, too.

When the time comes…

Rev. Deb Vaughn, 6.8.2016

Enough

My week started out taxing and frustrating, and ended with a sense of Divine forgiveness and intervention. The frustration came from within, feeling inadequate to handle the tasks and problems in front of me. The Divine forgiveness and intervention was part of experiencing a fellowship meal, Communion and a time of reflection on Maundy Thursday.

At one point in my workday, I took a break. I needed to find inspiration and beauty. The faces I saw were full of anger and hurt and pain… There were issues I could only bear witness to, and offer my ministry of presence. A helpless feeling, that.

I sat with God a while… I felt unequal to the work I was tasked to do…

But I was reminded that it was “enough.” I am enough. God’s Spirit bearing witness in my presence is enough. Sitting in silence and in prayer is enough. Holding a limp hand in the face of death is enough. Crying out my own frustration as I drove from one family to the next is enough. Just BEING is enough!

This runs counter to the way our world sees things. For there are never enough clothes  in your closet, enough food on your table, a fancy enough car. Driven to buy, use and buy again, we forget the essence of “enough.”

On Maundy Thursday, we sat together and remembered the One who gave Enough love for the whole world. A gift that can never be matched or expressed in my limited capacity as a Christ-follower. It was a holy moment as we sang…

Were you there as they crucified my Lord…
Were you there as they crucified my Lord…
Ohhhh, sometimes it causes me to tremble…

It was enough. It is enough. And it is all God.