Morning by Morning (1/30)

My morning gratitude for:

  1. Phong Lam, who I am having lunch with today and is a really good hearted nurse and a devoted Christian. I love watching new Christians grow into their faith.
  2. Playing tools with Ryan.  I loved watching him learn how to turn a screwdriver last night!
  3. The weekend! Lately, the weekends have been needed and I appreciate the time to spend with my family and friends and church!
  4. Possible pho or burgers this afternoon! Either way is yummy!

Morning by Morning (1/29)

My morning gratitude for:

  1. The grandfather who I helped yesterday.  Losing his granddaughter and feeling unable to really voice his emotions, the prayer and christening opened the floodgates of tears.  I could see his love for his family and for his baby girl.  He showed leadership and vulnerability, openness and decision making, calm and compassion.  I am very impressed and moved by him, and I am grateful to have walked alongside of him for just a short part of his journey.
  2. The flexibility of my work! I snoozed twice (highly unusual) and woke up way late. I thought I’d be in way late but 20 min ain’t bad, and with a workplace that understands and allows for it- whew! It really takes a lot of stress off (especially for a job that is inherently stressful!).
  3. Elana spending time with her friends.  I’m grateful she has a best friend and other friends who can surround her and encourage her and bring her laughs and a good break.

Morning by Morning (1/28)

 My morning gratitude for:

  1. Ryan! I can’t say how much I love being with my son. Whenever I have a bad day at work or when I’m struggling, being around him really gives me a calm and a peace. I love watching him play, take a bath, watch him eat, learn the works around him, and especially love the greeting (big smile and excited run to me) I get every day when I come home.
  2. The parents I mise in the hospital whose love is in during in spite of and because of the fragility of life. They are the reason that I continue doing what I do as a pediatric chaplain.
  3. The unbelievable ability of Southwest Central Church of Christ to provide a potluck and the amazing food at that potluck!
  4. Tim Parker, who is a good friend whose wisdom and encouragement are so appreciated.

Morning by Morning (1/27)

My morning gratitude for:

  1. King Mbani, a teen in church who I have really grown to love because of his confidence and willingness to be honest about everything.
  2. Nik Cunnningham, a former teen at church who I miss but I always remember him greatly as the kid whom I loved being a ‘Big Brother.’ I hope I get to hear from him soon and hear how he’s doing!
  3. Lunch with the Memorial Hermann Pedi chaplains yesterday.  I love their department and love the closeness of their chaplains.  Plus, Glenda, Joel and Carter and good people and good friends.
  4. Jessica Shannon, the new and solo chaplain at Texas Womens.  She is energetic and loves serving, and I am grateful for her to have a place to grow into her ministry.

Morning by Morning (1/26)

My morning gratitude for:

  1. My three dogs.  I appreciate Bailey, Twix, and Hot Fudge Sundae as calming and loving.  They drive me nuts often but I love having them at home and having dogs who are so comfortable with kids who climb all over them! I appreciate how loving, sweet, and gentle they are towards my kids, and fir cleaning up the food that Ryan leaves around the house!
  2. The Houston Pediatric chaplain lunch today, where the small amount of colleagues in pediatric ministry will come around to share joy and fellowship.
  3. The ministry of my church which is always unique, sometimes with great flaws, but always seeking to be faithful.
  4. The coming schedule change where I will go in later. I did it yesterday and loved it, but for the rest of the week I am back at the early grind.  Boo! But yay for anticipating a good change!

Dying Well: Venerating Relationships, Not Independence

We used to venerate the aged, but then our culture shifted.  But instead of venerating youth as though the pendulum shifted to its opposite, we learned to venerate the indendent self.

At least that is Atul Gawande’s claim in Being Mortal.  I don’t disagree.  This culture preferences neither age or youth, but rather celebrates the one who is independent.  Even over character, spirituality, connection, our culture prizes the one who finds and clings to their independence.  

For Gawande, he finds this clearly in the way American culture (and the world in following) treats its aging and then dying people.  The one who is most in control at the time of their dying days is the winner per se, seen almost as a hero right? You’ve heard the pride that grandma lived at home alone serving the church right up to her dying day, or the doctor that kept coming to work until days before his death because he was independent and thriving…they were living still. But it has some scary consequences.  

  • Dying is relegated to anonymous sterile places, not the home or among family.
  • Old age tends to bring intimacy with loved ones at a distance, not closer. 
  • Hospitals grow at unbelievable paces.
  • Nuclear family replaced the extended family.
  • We tend to pursue slivers of hope (mere extra days of life) rather than swaths of meaning (high quality of life and relationships).

It’s all true to a greater or lesser extent. What gives me rise for concern is how it has affected how we prepare, treat, and give structure to those children who are entering their final days.  When children are dying these days, we prize the slivers of hope rather than spending quality time at home with family. I mean, if an adult dies at the hospital, it is sad but not overly so. When a child dies at the hospital, I think about the lack of a home they in, the family who couldn’t be with them, the sterility of a hospitality rather than the warmth of a home.  This is not always true of course- some families and kids have a truly dignified death in our ICU’s where they are quite loved and cared for and surrounded by family at the last breaths. Nonetheless, we prize independence over anything else. The child who is special needs often meets relief by our culture who are grateful since they lacked independence but the child who was “normal” is greeted with sadness. 

All to say, independent selves are great. Independence brings freedom, liberty, and beauty to places and people who may not have otherwise experienced them. But we have often traded the veneration of family and community for independence, and that hurts for some of the kids in my hospital who would thrive even in dying by having family and friends fully present loving them or by being in the place they find as home. Independence is important, but it doesn’t always mean dignity. Independence is great but it doesn’t always have a community. Independence is critical, but it doesn’t always equal dignity or beauty it meaningfulness. In other words, when it comes to health, we make independent realized selves and the avoidance of death at all costs- costs of family time, peace, warmth, and quality of life- we make those the opposite of giving up.  So we push families and parents to avoid death and pursue slivers of hope, instead of treasuring the invaluable love and perseverance of hope that parents express when they surround their children peacefully, joyfully and tearfully. Perhaps instead of venerating age, youth or independent selves, we ought to venerate the abundance of real love we see in droves, and that may allow us to disarm this fear of dying, life cycles, death and grief our culture continues to run from.

Morning by Morning (1/25)

My morning gratitude for:

  1. Waking up with Elana and the kids this morning.  I loved seeing everyone in the morning before work and that setting up my day at the hospital.  It’s great to wake up with happy kids and family and get into a rhythm with them!
  2. Dropping Aiden off at school this morning.  We had a great conversation about disc golf and the NFL playoffs.  It was very calming and enjoyable. I love spending time with Aiden!
  3. Getting to play disc golf with my good friend Josh at Milby Park. I loved the park, enjoyed the company and appreciated the exercise and fun.  Disc golf is so fun…especially when I win…

Morning by Morning (1/23)

My morning gratitude for:

  1. Date night with Elana last night! We got to enjoy dinner at Artista’s and then the play “Bridges of Madison County” thanks to a wonderful kind member of our church.  It was to be with my beautiful wife and laugh with each other a lot!
  2. Seafood paella.  Seriously, it is a great love of mine with spicy rice and grilled seafood.  Yummy.
  3. A baptism of a boy I was able to perform yesterday.  It was a gift and a special moment where the love and devotion of the parents was quite evident.  This child needs a miracle to survive the next couple days, but those parents chose to still baptize their baby to “give him to God” and symbolize that he would never be away from Gods love.  My heart breaks for them, but I am honored and humbled to have been a part of this special act of faith for a boy who will never be forgotten and never be alone no matter what the future holds.

Morning by Morning (1/22)

My morning gratitude for:

  1. Ellery McDaniel, a young girl whose family is part of our church care group.  She is gifted and talented in so many ways! However, at care group last night it was her heart and gentleness on display, as she offered to watch Ryan so Elana and I could sit and enjoy dinner with our friends.  And not only did she watch him for a little bit, but she followed him around, played peek a boo with him, played chase, gently led him around the house, and carefully kept him safe and smiling for quite a while. She’s awesome and appreciated!!
  2. Robert and Bernie Barboza and their awesome pancet (spelling?) that they make often for dinner group.  Reminds me of my aunts Filipino pancet!
  3. Getting to serve pancakes to the PICU staff this morning! They are always so appreciative!