Happiness Is a Warm Blanket

Friday we had a health care adventure through the outpatient radiology department, and we’re nearly over it. The greatest difficulty for Mimi wasn’t the days of fretful anticipation, the multiple nervous transfers from home to van, van to hospital, or wheelchair to stretcher. Although the procedure itself had moments of pain, it wasn’t the worst part. For Mimi, the greatest suffering of all was the temperature of the place..

When we rolled into the hospital, you would have thought it was a meat locker. We sat outside of our appointed place, patiently waiting, while Mimi asked, over and over, “Why does it have to be so cold?”

Germs have a harder time surviving in cold vs hot environments, but I know the real reason. The thermostat is controlled by menopausal butter ducks like me. They stay hot, and will fight a buzz saw to keep the temperature down.

About twenty minutes into our chilly wait, I remembered an ingenious invention: the blanket warmer. The nice receptionist for the day surgery department answered my request, and in no time I had Mimi swathed in toasty comfort.

In the space of four hours, she burned through eight or ten of them. Each new application brought sighs of welcome relief.

I wonder if they make a blanket warmer for home use? If so, I have hit on the best Christmas gift ever!



A Season of Grief

One of my nurse colleagues just went through a six-week period of hell as her father bounced in and out of the intensive care unit, and eventually died of his heart disease. She stayed on my mind and in my heart, and every day I struggled to find the best way to support her.

I wanted to call, but I didn’t want to wake her up if she had found a rare opportunity to nap, or disturb a visit with her dad or a meeting with a long line of doctors. In the past, I’ve used these facts to excuse me from painful contact, which is absolutely the wrong thing to do. But thanks to technology, I hit on an excellent way to offer support without intruding. A daily text offering my love and prayers kept us connected. If she felt like talking, she’d call me back to respond. If not, she’d just text back a quick update or even a one word response.

Supporting a suffering person is always painful and a little awkward. Jennifer Fulwiler, who blogs at Conversion Diary, really explains it well.

As I have experienced from being in both roles, the person who grieves feels broken and raw, but the person who hopes to comfort those in grief carries her own cross too, the heartache of feeling powerless to take away the suffering of those she cares about. Everyone touched by a tragedy is transformed in some way, and the process of transformation is sometimes painful. A terrible loss, especially one that was unforeseen, thrusts those who mourn and the community around them into a crucible of the human experience in which the facades that shield us are burned away, and our innermost selves are left vulnerable and exposed. And when we’re all walking around in that state, bumping into each other as we bumble around, trying to heal, trying to help, trying just to get through the rest of the day, it’s going to be messy.  (Read more…) 



Another Gift I Don’t Have

I’m not easily scandalized, so it caught me off guard when it happened the other day. At the end of daily Mass, (at the cathedral, no less), an old woman (who should have known better!) answered her cell phone and proceeded to have a loud, lengthy conversation. My first instinct was to look for an usher. But, alas, there are no ushers at daily Mass.

I looked around the cavernous holy space and saw a dozen or so of my fellow pilgrims praying. Or trying to pray. Who could pray with their ears assaulted by this woman’s yammering?

Emboldened by righteous indignation, I chose to leave the church by passing through the long pew directly in front of the offender. Reminding myself that instructing the ignorant is a corporal work of mercy, I stopped, turned and faced her. She took the phone away from her ear and bellowed, “What?”

In my best church lady whisper, I asked a question that wasn’t really a question. “Could you go outside to finish your call?”

The woman’s face turned purple. “No, I couldn’t!”

“Really? You couldn’t?” I asked, incredulous. “People are trying to pray in here.”

“No – I couldn’t!” And she resumed her conversation, louder than before.

So, my efforts only managed to goad the woman to ramp up her disruption. What’s worse, I see this lady at least twice a week. Or some version of her.  I’m not much for noticing details. One day, I saw three women who could have been her.  So I don’t even know when to be embarrassed, for both of us.

Lesson learned – I’m a wash out as a shusher. Unless the Holy Spirit gives me a nudge I can’t resist, in the future I’ll stick to exercising known gifts, like comforting the afflicted.

5/3/2012: Feast of St. Phillip and St. James the Less