Posted by: jmdenham | May 29, 2017

How To Honor Those Who Serve?

It’s Memorial Day.  A day created with an intent to honor the ones who have served our country and now lay fallen.  It’s a day for remembering. 

But remembrance is often complicated.  

Do we remember all of those who fell? Do we celebrate one wars servicemen and not another? Do we remember the compassion and heart of blacks, Muslims, LGBT, or Southeast Asians who served as much as we remember the heart of other service men and women? Do we remember men and women with appreciation and humility or just fireworks and unquestioning loyalty to freedom isn’t free bumper stickers?

I ask these questions because I got to watch an incoming honor flight at Baltimore this past week.  I watched older, hurting, frail but committed men and women who had served in WW II come through the gate and be celebrated with applause and care by the crowd, many of whom (including myself) have no clue what those eyes have seen or experienced. Remembering must be humble in acknowledging the profound awful experience right? 

I ask those questions also because my grandfather fought in Korea and told me the couple times he talked about war- that he knew he had to serve out of duty but never wanted me to fight in a war, and never wanted me to fight period.  He was clear to me that war was terrible in that he felt like there is no moral high ground in that space. Remembering could be bold enough to acknowledge that not every one who died in service died for a good cause (we have been aggressors and committed our own atrocities) I wondered then and wonder now how we, or I, should honor those who have died and fallen, to make sure I honor their life, not the ideals of our country.

My grandfathers service is worth remembering. It’s worth appreciating.  The men and women who have died in World War I, WW II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraqi War, and other battles and encounters deserve to be remembered. But with fireworks and Memorial Day sales for washers/dryers/cars or barbecues and alcohol? That seems to whitewash what sacrifice and cost have meant to so many.  It also seems to memorialize our country’s innocence and economics rather than memorialize the sacrifice of physical and mental health of those men and women.

I will remember my grandfather and others today by considering ways to support the VA’s or veterans mental health.  I will tell my grandfathers story with the honesty he shared to me.  I will remain humble knowing I don’t have all the answers and that those who choose to serve are gifts and people too, not just numbers on battlefields.

So I ask those who are out there who have served and protected and cared for those who share our borders and culture:

How would you like to be honored today? What would dignify the service of those who have fallen?

Posted by: jmdenham | May 29, 2017

Morning by Morning (5/29/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Waking up feeling better than yesterday.  That was probably the worst I’d felt in a while, so this morning is quite welcome.
  2. The beginning of Ramadan, which is always a window into faith I always appreciate.  
  3. My mother in laws care for me yesterday.  She came and watched kids, got me Gatorade, washed our sheets, and made me go nap in my room.  It was so nice to be taken care of, but much more importantly, so sweet of her to come over and show her care.
  4. Houston Dynamo tie on the road.  First road point of the year, albeit quite late!
Posted by: jmdenham | May 26, 2017

Morning by Morning (5/26/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. My stunningly beautiful wife. I’m proud of her working really hard both professionally and personally to always be a better person.
  2. Ann Haywood Baxter’s hospitality and accompaniment on my flights in and out of Grand Rapids and also our long layover in Baltimore.  She made the trip not just less long but pleasurable. 
  3. Snuggling with Ryan after a long week away.
  4. The comedy of Hasan Minhaj that helped me laugh some and also challenged some cultural assumptions too.
Posted by: jmdenham | May 25, 2017

Morning by Morning (5/25/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Random pics texted to me from my mother in law that make me smile. 
  2. The kind words of everyone after my plenary session at PCN yesterday.  I know it was not a mind blowing session, but it was integral to my developing identity as a pediatric chaplain.  The support was great.
  3. The “Cure Violence” program that treats violence as a contagious disease and works with those in the community to heal its spread. I’m fascinated by this group and what they’ve done so far.
  4. PCU (intermediate pediatric care unit) staff who so wonderfully engage developmentally delayed or technology dependent children who cannot communicate in traditional ways.  Those nurses give such dignity in their engagement with the child.
Posted by: jmdenham | May 24, 2017

Morning by Morning (5/24/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Elana, Aiden, and Ryan whom I miss so much while at my conference.
  2. Mark Brown, Ann Haywood-Baxter, Bob Flory, Molly Garnett, Patrick Jinks, Gloria Kroeze, Kate Gerne, and Stacey Jutila. They provided great relaxing conversation tonight.
  3. Late nights at PCN!!!
  4. No more presentations for a while.  I can rest easy for the first time in a couple weeks, and I feel my body starting to lean in to that tiredness now.  But some fantastic opportunities have come in these weeks!
Posted by: jmdenham | May 23, 2017

Morning by Morning (5/23/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Pediatric chaplains whose humor and compassion is renewing, refreshing, and sustaining for me both personally and professionally.
  2. A beautiful walk in Holland Michigan this morning.  I loved the Dutch homes, the beautiful architecture, the crisp air, and the beautiful trees.
  3. Tiffany Riley, a Funnyatrics clown and fantastic leader of our session last night.  Her familiarity and honesty with the power of play and improv in the lives of the hurting was inspiring and full of joy. But as important as the skills of play for our families, it was joyful and fun! See this clip if you want to know more about Funnyatrics:  https://youtu.be/NfLbK5buDFA 
  4. Pics of Elana and Ryan and Aiden that sustain me while I am away!
Posted by: jmdenham | May 21, 2017

Morning by Morning (5/20/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. My wonderful wife Elana who has held down the fort for lots of my schedule adjustments, my late nights, and my upcoming conference.  What a world beater and cute to boot! Thanks love!
  2. Playing strategy board games.  I love Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Carcassone.  I love being tactical and being competitive.
  3. Watching Ryan mimic me- fixing his car like I fix mine, saying nursery rhymes like I do, sitting similarly, and learning to love what I love.  That is special and humbling.
  4. PCN Conference is here!!!!! Leaving in 7 hours…
Posted by: jmdenham | May 18, 2017

Morning by Morning (5/18/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Sitting in my living room slowly waking up while looking out our big windows to the back yard.  A great still morning.
  2. Tom Sharon, a colleague at Texas Children’s who is a phenomenal helper and incredibly perceptive.  I have really loved getting to know him and work alongside him.  I am growing through his wisdom and experience too.
  3. Elana’s growing professional identity. In the last year she has developed a career in college admission consulting plus skills with Birkman testing/scoring and working with at risk youth.  That’s a wonderful skill set and a great reflection of her character.
  4. Dinner at Beverly Thetford’s house (tonight for church dinner group). It’s a winner every time.
Posted by: jmdenham | May 17, 2017

Morning by Morning (5/17/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The nurses and physicians who handled CPR on a drowned child yesterday.  CPR seems like both emotional and physical work, and their passion for getting that child back was clear and powerful.
  2. The emotional and mental rest that will come soon after this week and some extra time away from work.
  3. Planting more basil and butternut squash last night. I can’t wait till we have enough basil for pesto!
  4. All those watch over weapons across the world.  I watched a documentary about the exploded Titan II missile in Arkansas in 1980, and so I am very grateful for all the men and women who keep safe and secure all those bombs and weapons (even though I’d love to be grateful that were all destroyed in peace).
Posted by: jmdenham | May 16, 2017

Morning by Morning (5/16/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. A wonderful time with the Neurology Fellows yesterday. They are a very good group of people who care so much about their profession and yet are still a ways from reaching their journey as attending doctors. They also are very open to learning better ways of interacting with the families.  But they’ve been quite a blessing and encouragement to work with in the PICU.
  2. Ryan’s first play date, who came over to just play with him! (and not with her brother who would play with Aiden)
  3. Don and Karen Hegi.  Jeremy is a great friend, and his parents were always so kind to me.  They were welcoming, encouraging, supportive, taught me to competitively play croquet, and introduced me to my backyard fireworks display.  But their faith was even more stunning in its honesty and pursuit of good.  I’m so happy for them to be grandparents and for Jeremy to be a dad!!

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