When William Campion was in the intensive-care unit (ICU) this month after a double lung transplant, he felt nervous and scared and could breathe only with the help of a machine.
Joel Nightingale Berning, a chaplain at Mr. Campion’s hospital stopped by. He saw that Mr. Campion had a tube in his neck and windpipe, which prevented him from speaking. The chaplain held up a communication board—not the kind used to check a patient’s physical pain and needs, but a “spiritual board” … The board also lets patients rate their level of spiritual pain on a scale of 0 through 10, from none to “extreme.” Mr. Campion, a 69-year-old Catholic, indicated his spiritual pain was acute: 8. Using the picture board, he signaled that he wanted to pray. The chaplain recited the Lord’s Prayer as Mr. Campion followed silently.
ICUs have evolved in recent years and even the critically ill are being sedated less than before. As doctors came to believe that heavy sedation—once the norm in such units—could be harmful, many patients are now breathing with the help of machines, and are conscious…more ICU patients (are) awake and alert. The fact that these patients can’t communicate adds to their frustration…many patients on these machines feel “trapped.”…They have been intubated, meaning they have a tube in their throat, attached to a machine that is breathing for them….
The 32-year-old chaplain, who is nondenominational, persuaded a fellow chaplain—Seigan Ed Glassing, a Zen Buddhist monk who had studied art—to help illustrate the board. The two included a range of faiths and belief systems, including Christian, Jewish and Hindu, as well as New Age, Pagan and agnostic. Colorful icons offer patients the option of a prayer or confession, or simply to have someone hold their hand. Chaplain Glassing said he loved figuring out “what would a blessing look like,” or how to draw “make [me] an altar.” A favorite: depicting someone asking to be read a poem.
The study, with results published last August in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, looked at 50 ICU patients who were offered spiritual care through the board. Researchers measured patients’ anxiety before and after the chaplain came, concluding that “anxiety after the first visit decreased 31%.”
Among patients who survived, 81% “felt more at peace,” while 71% felt “more connected with what is sacred.”
~ Lucette Lagnado, excerpts from A ‘Spiritual Board’ Brings Comfort to the Critically Ill
What cycles up When on the random shuffle on a 7,231 song playlist and Why?
Is it so random?
The ears tune into her lyrics, Joan Armatrading’s “Heaven“:
“Am I in Heaven? Am I in Heaven? Am I in Heaven? Have I gone up. Have I gone up. To the big cloud.”
This asphalt. This footfall. This foam cushioning my footfall. This swoosh of a flock overhead. This red breasted robin foraging on the damp grass. This gentle morning breeze cooling. This bead of sweat that’s made its way from forehead to cheek to lips, this salt lick. This sky stretching to the heavens, down to earth, to this ground, to this hip, this thigh, this leg, this calf, these feet – all propelling this body forward.
This, not the Rue de l’Abreuvoir in Paris. Not the Ramblas in Barcelona. Or the gardens of Łazienki Królewskie in Warsaw. This patch of ground here. Here. Now. [Read more…]
Halldór’s nightlessness and insomnia in all directions.
A new routine, and I’ve grooved it. To bed early, wake early, read to exhaustion, and back to sleep until sunrise.
I flick on the iPad, illuminating the dark. I get after it. The Journal. The Times. Apple News. Blog posts. RSS feeds in Feedly. A few late night incoming emails. And then to dessert, a chapter or two on Kindle, half-way through Lebedev’s Oblivion. It’s 3:15 am, I’m turning pages on a title called Oblivion, now that’s something. You must sleep, or you will pay dearly.
I set the e-gear down, turn on the left side, and pull up the covers. Fragments of news, pages, posts, emails and today’s full day calendar are flitting by, churning, the mind workin’, workin’. Anxiety…A piece rises to the top. Begley: “A compulsion is at once psychological balm and curse, surface madness and profound relief…The ability of compulsive behaviors to quiet anxieties great and small is one of the greatest gifts our brains can give us.”
I pause, close my eyes, and marinate in this…if this is the greatest gift our brains can give us, I am fully gifted, fully loaded. FULL UP.
And, then, it stopped. The churning stopped. [Read more…]
My hope is that this minuscule prayer
will reach out to the god unknown I just sensed
passing in the rivulet of breeze above the mere rivulet
of water in this small arroyo. To the skittering insect
this place is as large as the Sea of Galilee.
In prayer I’m a complicated insect, moving
this way and that. The insect before me puzzles
over its current god, my dog Zilpha, who watches
with furrowed brow and thinks, “Should I paw
at this bug in this shallow pool, bite it, roll
on it in this tiny creek in the late afternoon heat,
or perhaps take another nap?” She looks at her god,
which is me, understanding as her eyes close
that the gods make up their minds as they go.
They are as patient as the water in which they live,
and won’t be surprised when they reach the sea
with their vast collection of reflections, the man, the dog,
the stars and moon and clouds, the javelina and countless
birds, bugs and minnows, the delicate sips of rattlers,
the boughs of mesquite, the carapace of the desert tortoise,
the heron footprints, the water’s memories of earth.
~ Jim Harrison, “Small Gods” from In Search of Small Gods
The moment, seconds really, should have degraded into an inkblot, edges fraying, burrowing to lose itself among the billions of other moments, stored for retrieval at a later date when a similar moment showed up. Aha, I remember that.
This one Rises, floats on Top, bobbing up and down, making sure it isn’t lost. Remember this, it seems to say. Don’t forget this, it needs to say.
I’m walking Cross-Town on 47th. It’s dark. It’s early, 6:23 am. And, it’s Cold – sub 35° F, with winds gusting. Feels like 26° F. Biting.
I’m wearing a trench coat, knee length, its heavy lining leaning in on my shoulders. It’s zipped to the throat.
The fur lined leather gloves keep the hands and fingers toasty. I grip my case with one, and swing the other, the motion pulling me forward, the pace quick, the blood and bones warming from the movement.
And there he was.
Alone. [Read more…]
The mind cannot fall asleep as long as it watches itself. Only when the mind moves unwatched and becomes absorbed in images that tug it as it were to one side does self-consciousness dissolve and sleep with its healing, brilliantly detailed fictions pour in upon the jittery spirit. Falling asleep is a study in trust. Likewise, religion tries to put us at ease with the world. Being human cannot be borne alone. We need other presences. We need soft night noises – a mother speaking downstairs. We need the little clicks and sighs of a sustaining otherness. We need the gods.
– John Updike, Self-Consciousness: Memoirs
It’s dark, I grope, I grip the wooden arm of the bannister at the top of the stairs. I’m about to take the first step down and here it comes. Not just one morning, every morning.
Must be Mandelstam’s Blossom. It hovers. It hammers. It is now. It is not. It ruptures and raptures. I try to turn, to turn away to Light. Yet and yet and yet, it pulls me back. A beckoning for what? To what?
55° F. Saturday morning. I’m on the front porch. Rain is spitting Autumn, the season has turned.
I look down. Gray shirt. Gray shorts. Gray water bottle. Gray and Blue shoes. I look up, Gray skies. Synchronicity – cosmic alignment. [Read more…]