Tuesday, January 7, 2014

When I Grow Up, I am Going to Build Sandboxes

I don’t like to cry at funerals. But today I cried at a funeral. I went to Mr. McBroom’s funeral today.  His name was Henry, but I think my mother would really not want me to call a 90 year old man by his first name, so I out of respect for her I will refer to him as Mr. McBroom.  He was one of my kind…You know he was in the ministry.  And he was one of the good ones…

The preacher that officiated today did an exceptional job. He talked about Mr. McBroom’s family. And he referred to his service to our country during World War II. And he pointed out that he had been married to his wife for 70 years. I was enjoying the service so much…But then his comments became far  more personal. 

Did I tell you? I don’t like to cry at funerals.  But the preacher started reflecting on Mr. McBroom’s relationship with him over the past twenty years or more. It seems that Mr. McBroom showed up at the preacher’s house unannounced one day.  He had built a sandbox for the preacher’s children. How can you not like people who like your kids?

Mr. McBroom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at some point during his retirement years. But he did not let that stop him from writing encouraging letters to his preacher. The letters were difficult to decipher, because his ability to write was impaired by the Parkinson’s.  All of us struggle with our kids. Even preachers struggle with their kids.  Surprisingly enough we are human. And our children are too. Kids are going to make mistakes.  And even preacher’s kids have to experience the pain of growing up.  During a difficult time period with one of his children Mr. McBroom wrote his preacher a letter. He was quick to point out that the letter did not contain any predictable clich├ęs like “Let go and let God.”  It was one of the letters that was hard to read, because the penmanship was not exactly the best. But the content was priceless…

I hate crying at funerals, but when I hear about people that reach out to preachers when that preacher’s child is in some mess I can’t help it.  PK’s as they are sometimes called (preacher’s kids) are not always on the receiving end of grace.  And their moms and dads can become easy targets too when they miss the mark as parents.  How can you not love people that love your kids? And furthermore how can you not love people that extend grace and encouragement to you when you are struggling with your kids as they grow up? And that is what Henry did for the man that officiated at his funeral today.  Yes….He is Henry to THAT man.  You don’t forget people that loved your kids as they grew up. They become near and dear to you. 

I really hate to cry at funerals, but my heart was touched today. Henry was one of my kind.  He was in the ministry.  But more importantly he loved preachers and their kids. He was one of the good ones. When I grow up, I am going to build sandboxes and write letters….And I am going to think about a man named Henry that was born in 1923.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Up Close and Personal: Providing Heart Care for Emergency Medical Personnel

I grew up watching Johnny and Roy respond to all kinds of crises in Squad 51.  Dr. Brackett always prescribed Ringer’s Lactate and D5W. The patient was to be transported to Rampart Emergency immediately!  As a 10 year old boy in 1972, I was impressed. Watching  the television show “Emergency” was a weekly ritual.

I have worked with emergency medical personnel for 24 years now as a law enforcement chaplain.  But unfortunately the relationship has always been characterized by distance.  By the time an officer calls me to a scene, they have already cleared.  In many of the situations I am involved in, there has been a death. They have already done everything they could do.

Over the past year, I have been thrown in with the medics that serve Hood County. I have actually been privileged to get to know them better and serve with them in several situations. Most recently one of the paramedics invited me to join them on a shift, so I did over the holidays.  My eyes were opened.  I have officially been exposed to a new dimension of emergency services.  

Here are a few things I learned over the past year and particularly during my ride along last month.

  • EMS gets up close and personal with people in distress.  The rest of us on a scene can keep some form of distance.  But medics have to touch, feel, poke and prod.  That presents its own challenges.
  • EMS must perform well in all sorts of settings. They don’t have the luxury of a sterile examining room.  In fact, they end up having to treat patients in environments that are unpleasant, unsanitary, and either frigid or hot.
  • EMS cares for patients in life and death situations.  Meanwhile family members are hovering nearby in a state of absolute emotional distress.  I don't know how they perform their job.
  • EMS cares for all kinds of people:  elderly stroke victims, individuals that have attempted to take their lives, victims of trauma, and very sick children. 
  • EMS personnel keep trying even when all medical possibilities have been exhausted.  Consequently people die in their care.

The most important thing I have learned over the past year was confirmed during my recent ride along.  EMS servants have huge hearts. They are not in the field to accumulate mass amounts of wealth. They chose the profession because they want to help people.

What do servants with huge hearts do after they change a blood stained uniform?  What do they do once “A” shift is over and the “B” shift comes on to take their place?  They see more traumas in a 24 hour period than most people do in a lifetime.

There are no meds on the ambulance that can cure wounded hearts.  A faith that is real enters the picture in a profound way. The expression of Christian compassion in a way that is genuine is of utmost importance.  A confidential ear coupled with prayer that is meaningful should not be factored out. 

Wow…those are areas where I get to serve.  I am privileged.  I get to care for those big hearts. I am called to get up close and personal too…just in a different way.  I look forward to future ride along experiences with my medics.  I keep wondering when they are going to get out the Ringers Lactate or the D5W?  Who would know better than  Dr. Brackett?