Sunday, April 22, 2012

Innocence, Love, Tragic Losses, and Sweetness Found: Part 2 of 2

There it was, on Adam’s blog… he was going to be a DAD!

Much like others who are newly pregnant they struggled with how soon to tell. Immediately when you find out? 60 days? 90 days? Well, they finally spilled the beans, plural beans!! TWINS !!!!!

The joy multiplied for those of us who were bystanders. Adam and his wife have many many friends, families and have lived numerous places so their levels of people knowing them was broad.

Adam, the blogger, skirted the information highway with at times maybe more than his beloved wife would have wanted. Yet those of us who were experienced in such things, pregnancies and babies, were given a wonderful window into their new adventure. 

With twins they MD wanted to see them a bit more often than with only one baby growing. So as those days and weeks moved forward Adam used his internet expertise for help. If he had to buy two of everything, WHICH TWO? Cribs, car seats, high chairs etc. The list of course was enormous. The more recent parents chimed in on his blogs as to which products they liked and why. Those of us who were many years past infants marveled at all the new and helpful things that had come onto the market. I have to say the video-baby-cam would be my personal favorite.

Adam blogged about videos he saw, diaper options, and had made up cute “public” names for each of their boys. Yes, they did decide to know their genders.

October 25th is a day that those who love and care for Adam and his wife will never forget. It is the day they lost both their boys. A quote from his blog. “Even as I type this post, it still feels unreal.”

I sobbed for them unable to fathom what this may be like; to this day what it *is* like.

What I found so amazing is that all those years of blogging had enabled Adam to still allow a window in their life as he was able. Not so often in the early weeks but often enough to hear some bits and pieces. Enough to know they had been surrounded by blood-family and church-family for as long as they might need.

Understanding from my own clinical training would be that Adam and his wife processed their losses differently and on different timelines. Adam respected his wife’s need for online privacy while continuing to write about his own thoughts and feelings.

I gasped when doing some of the research for this article and found that the horrible night I had first encountered Adam in our office, he had stood with a family and lovingly blessed their baby. How could he have ever projected someone would be offering that in return?

One of the most profound responses that many who have lost a child have to recon with is to the question, “Oh, how many children do you have???” Not everyone who asks that out of general interest is prepared to hear of the loss of a child, or multiples.

Well, the wonderful news first is that indeed Adam and his wife grew closer during their healing not farther apart. Unfortunately that can be the terrible fallout when a child [or children] has died.

In January 2011 I posted here on my blog a poem I wrote with Adam and his wife in mind.

Now less than 2 years later they have another son who is so amazingly cute he makes me giggle.

When asked the question as to how many children they have he replies, [from his blog] “I am a father of 3, 1 living.”  

Adam still blogs and uploads photos as always. I am grateful to know Adam even if only afar these days and enjoying every photo he shares of their precious 3rd son. 

From my vantage point Adam, who now is an ordained minister, was forever transformed in those days and the days since. His blogging such personal thoughts has given those around him the ability to get close to him rather than him seeming untouchable and perfect. Sometimes the suffering of others is understood better from having experienced our own.

Like some people I meet I say, "They have been to hell and back" and thats why they so appreciate the now. Indeed. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Innocence, Love, Tragic Losses, and Sweetness Found: Part 1 of 2

The true story of a young man and his family told from my perspective. I may quote from his BLOG for accuracy at times.

[Note the details are as I remember them and have been researched to the best of my ability. I am publishing this with his permission for my use]

Summertime is one of the periods of time during the year that I look forward to working as a Chaplain in an academic setting. We have a training program that is required for graduation of many theological institutions and religious groups. The name of the training is Clinical Pastoral Education; insiders refer to the program as CPE. The first day of the academic summer is always filled with anxiety of the unknown for the 10-12 new students who will be there fulltime for 10 weeks. The staff Chaplains do our best to relieve that tension as we begin see who may be seemingly more self reliant, more timid, more assured etc. Each of them are assigned an academic supervisor as well as having the opportunity to seek us out the staff as mentors.

Where I work we have a house-pager that is in the hands of an in-house Chaplain 24-7 for needs and emergencies. From 5:30PM to 8:30AM there is only one Chaplain to respond to pages. That Chaplain is responsible for all calls within the 600 bed inpatients if at capacity as well as the Bristol Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital 100 beds. They are also responsible for coverage in the emergency room and trauma center. Often it is a matter of triaging the calls as they come in. Being called to the bedside of someone at the end of his or her life would take priority over someone who wanted information. A trauma in the trauma center with family in the waiting area would take priority over a person who needed a listening ear. ALL of those are important but for one Chaplain alone, it is a matter of prioritizing each call and need. Every call will be responded to. We keep a call-log where the Chaplain records every page, the time, the person’s name why the Chaplain was called, and if need be for the daytime staff a recommendation for follow-up.

When I was doing my clinical training I remember thinking to myself that if I got two contiguous hours of sleep in that 15 hour period of time I was all right!

With that background let me begin a few days before June 7th, 2007.

The new summer C.P.E. students had come with great enthusiasm and trepidation. This was as I had said appropriate for a new experience. Many hadn’t ever been in a hospital no less visited people who are vulnerable and seeking council or a listening ear.

One of the students I remember standing out in those first few days was Adam. Adam stood out I recall as being one of the group “geeks”. I remember him talking about how he blogged. I wasn’t sure what I thought at the time about online publishing for anyone to read personal thoughts. How funny to me now that here I am doing just the same.

I refer to his blog of his first overnight on-call to begin his story.

            If I had to pick a phrase to describe my first 24hr on-call experience, it would probably be trial by fire. When I walked into the Pastoral Care Office today, one of the staff chaplains was reading through the log-book. When I walked in, she stopped, looked up at me and said, “Are you okay? Do you need a hug?”

That she is me.

That was a horrific night for many who came to our hospital Level One Trauma Center and multi-facility hospital. Even now when I read his blog post I feel my stomach tense knowing what that night might have been like for Adam and those he visited.

I once again refer to his blog :

One of those [calls] was for a young couple who were going to have to deliver a 22 week still-birth. I met with the couple both before and after the delivery and gave a blessing over the baby’s body once it was delivered.

Remember last week I spoke of paradox? Whenever I experienced a night like he described I would drive home grateful that although I didn’t sleep all night these calls were not for my family. I was grateful I was able to stand with those suffering with the gratitude that once I had a chance to eat and sleep and my life would move forward. I was not the one whose life was turned upside down.

Summer after summer we have 10-12 students come for training and then they leave to go the next phase of their life. Because there are so many students who pass through this program during the summer and extended fall-winter-spring sessions it is rare to stay in contact with many.

Because I always read Adam’s blog I had the sense that I was staying in touch with him. I knew about his wife, his adorable dog etc. It is an interesting phenomenon to communicate and yet not really be communicating.

At one point Adam had asked to speak with me about some concerns he had regarding decisions he was making in his ministry path; he wanted to know my opinions, and my theological reasons for decisions I had made. I used a new technology to me, SKYPE. Adam was in California at the time so we used video conferencing.

As the years moved forward I read in his blog about the struggles he had and was so amazed to watch his tenacity of standing for what he believed at the same time respectfully listening to others council. From my perspective as a mentor these were important signs that he would one day become a well-rounded, grounded and respected faith leader. His life seemed to me to be one that was common for most young faith-leaders to-be. His life was filled with study, reflection, hope as well as great joy. He had his amazing wife beside him as well as great friends and family.

It was at during the last week of June 2010, if my math is correct, that Adam and his wife began a journey that would forever change their lives. They became pregnant. For me even at this distance I found myself joy filled for them. Their ministry paths were becoming clear and now their family was going to add a baby. There it was, on Adam’s blog… he was going to be a DAD!

[part 2 next week]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


First let me begin with the definition of the word paradox.

1. A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true: the paradox that standing is more tiring than walking.

I began thinking about this more clearly, and then with more confusion just this morning. Therefore I created my own paradox.

The calendar marks a date and tells us it is SPRING. Spring to me means warmth, flowers, and even bugs. Yet it seems all I have felt is rain, cold, and I can still wait a long time for those bugs!

I had heard that today was supposed to be warm. Indeed it is warm but for me it is a paradox that it is also a dreary day.

As my thoughts began to wander this morning they came to rest gently while I thought of a patient whom I had come to know fairly well over his admissions. His life had been one of extremes. He had experienced horrible things in his life; so much so that many of us could not even imagine. In his later adult life, he had transformed those experiences to a career. He was working to expose facts so others would not suffer the same but now modern atrocities. The paradox for me was that now meeting him as he was in treatment for cancer, he had such a cheerful spirit. There was no bitterness, no anger etc., and no fear. “I have a tenacious disease” he said. This is a man who made peace with paradox in his life. He chose to embrace living even in suffering, and find peace while he lay ill. Indeed, a paradox from my perspective. How could he have endured suffering like his and now at the other end of his life, be so peaceful?

My understanding from him [note he was a Buddhist] is that it is his beliefs that carry him. Faith and what we believe can at times seem like a paradox.

  1. I/We pray yet it can often feel like a one way conversation.
  2. I/We suffer and try to find a spiritual understanding, yet that seems a paradox as well.

What I am attempting to say is that life, like Spring, can be a paradox. Think of the athlete who has cancer vs. a person who didn’t care for their health living to 100. I think we as people attempt to make sense, to make clear what doesn’t rather than stepping back to view a paradox.

In a life that reminds us that not much is for sure, and that the next paradox is right around the corner, life also gives us an opportunity to be more peaceful in the uncertainty.

My question to you is, what grounds you during uncertain times? On the cusp of Christian holidays of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, and the Jewish holiday of Passover is it your faith is you belong to one of those traditions? Is your paradox of suffering hope?

Next week I will write about a very personal story. I have been given specific permission to use the story in its entirety. It is about youth, true love, unimaginable deaths and well.. I hope you read next week.