Posthumously and humorously:
Notes from Spiritual Direction Session
Patient: Mr. Jesus Christ
Notes by Dr. A. Einstein for review
Location: Bethlehem Incarceration Facility
Dr Einstein: Good Morning Mr. Christ. I understand from Rev. Hager that you are undergoing a dark night of the soul as you sit here in jail. Rev. Hager is off for Easter celebration so I am standing in for her. As a Jew, I do not take this holiday off. She asked me if I might offer my services for the next 30 minutes. She will be back with you after Easter to further support you on your journey. I understand you had a run in with the authorities?
Jesus: Yes, I have tried to “turn the other cheek” and teach my simple message of love to the people but I have made some enemies. I am misunderstood and I am tired of it.
Dr. Einstein: “Yes, once we accept our limits, (only then can) we go beyond them.”
Jesus: If I may quote Upton Sinclair with whom I find a lot of common ground, “"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon ... I've tried “ It was a coincidence that I found this book in my cell.
Dr. Einstein: “Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous.”
Jesus: Thank you, I like that. I can see you are a man of a spiritual bent but in the end only “those who have eyes to see, will see.”
Dr. Einstein: Let me put it this way, "There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is a though everything is a miracle" -
Jesus: Yes, miracles...I have done a few of them but you are right – all life is a miracle.
Dr. Einstein: “The most important question, Jesus, that a person can ask is, "Is the Universe a friendly place?” What is your answer?
Jesus: It is not my work but my Father in heaven, my Abba’s, my Poppa. He has all the answers. I am just following orders...
Dr Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
Jesus: What are you implying? Are you saying I have to do more than just follow the rules? I have to think and feel with the gifts that my Father gave me?
Dr Einstein: “Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts”.
Jesus: If I was to feel with my OWN heart I would listen to this girl that has been hanging around the camp. She is wonderful and wise; she says to allow our hearts to inform our heads.
Dr. Einstein: “When the solution is simple, God is answering.”
Jesus: What are you saying? Her answers are different…even her questions are different.
Dr Einstein: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a ladder, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Jesus: That can get sticky pretty fast. You see I am very attracted to her goodness, her wisdom and ... Ohy Veh, don’t get me started on her body It is very distracting. But, How can I serve two masters?
Dr. Einstein: Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
Jesus: My disciples back at camp are going to be jealous if I kiss Magdalene.
Dr. Einstein: “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
Jesus: Thank you Dr. Einstein…you have given me a lot to think about- kinda obscure but clearly thoughtful.
Dr. Einstein: “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”
Jesus: Yeah, whatever. Guard, take me back to my cell; I still have 40 days to serve and I need some wilderness right now.
NOTE: Chaplains when training to be of clinical support do these reviews (called verbatims) of our patient visits for a CPE group to review and give feedback. When I was doing my residency in San Francisco St. Lukes Hospital, I created this a playful exercise as to how two famous people might encounter each other (posthumously and humorously...)
As a person who hails from a progressive liberal tradition from the prairie of Oklahoma, we cremated. Ceremony was focused on deeply personal memorial services and scatterings. The view in my faith tradition of my upbringing was that our mortal ‘ships' into which we are have been blessed to be embodied were not seen as particularly sacred.
As an interfaith chaplain in hospice now, I support people at the end of their tours, so to speak…at their last breath, I offer impromptu blessings and participatory offerings for those in attendance at the bedside of a patient who has just passed. I stay until the designated mortuary comes to pick up. An intimacy with the body at the end, is a “new radical’ (as in back to the root) idea of some EOL visionaries to counteract the dominant youth culture of devaluing elders. Unless the family asked me to “do” the service, I only follow up with the bereaved via my hospice bereavement responsibilities.
End of Life Ceremony better as a collaboration
I have recently taken a class by Dr. Alan Wolfelt called Creating Meaningful Funerals. The class was not what I expected. Here I will freely admit ignorance and lack of vision…to the opportunities of working together with mortuaries. I met many there that were interested & interesting funeral directors / staff who care quite deeply about ceremony, (do spiritual mischief…) and serve families. With regret and before this class, I thought of the service as my domain and my job (Hey, I'M THE chaplain...) I did not see funeral directors as partners in this.
The framework of Dr Wolfelt’s principles
about why we have had funerals ...since the beginning of human life (and ...ahem...death) is an effective way to have a conversation together - clergy and mortuary.
My views have expanded due to this class. Meeting so many who care deeply about ceremony and service. I see the mortuary now as potential partners, or would be partners in sending the ’ship’ off well-tended. I believe the general public might also have this same erroneous view.
I offer up my ignorance because I have an abundance of it, which I do not need… We are (always) stronger together. There were many stories in that class of antipathy with “bad” clergy (and some stories of beautiful collaborations, too).
Two things to counter the idea of disintermediation
of mortuaries (or ministers…) as they occur to me.
1. GREEN BURIAL
My interest in alternative ways to bury people (green) as growth opportunities for an industry in transition, It is happening to all of us - disintermediation. These new forms of burial could still have the performance criteria of this class - using ceremony’s elements & permanent memorialization but perhaps in a different way.
2. DEATH EDUCATION
Perhaps less disruptive to existing mortuary business models might be offerings in bereavement and death where any of my classmates might collaborate with their local communities and educate the locals, as I have been educated about the creativity of funeral directors etc. There is a new curiosity about death in my experience.
•Death Cafes (deathcafe.org) are popular in California…and are usually held in
mortuaries or libraries…or churches.
•Bereavement support for your families...
• Grief groups at your facilities etc.
NOTE: My next Death Cafe will be in San Francisco on March 27
Please see Events for more info. RSVP please.
My new commitment to survey and report on a variety of book categories has begun in earnest on two of my websites in my vast entrepreneurial enterprise, which is my end-of-life ministry. (This is tongue in cheek for those of you who do not know me personally - i.e. the vast bit not the earnest part...).
Reviews and Resources for healthcare chaplains here:
On this website, I have introduced Reviews and Resources for healthcare chaplains. I have also asked for contributions by other chaplains in my networks, as to what their favorite books are and will update the page each week, as time and inspiration moves me. There are some amazing books out there...and more coming out each day.
Sustainable Caregiver resources can be found at:
This selection of books are focused on the sons & daughters who are improvising survival (and sustenance) at the bedside of their family members. It is why and for whom I wrote my own book, as you know, if you are a regular reader.
Disclaimer: Both pages & sections are hopeful of Amazon Affiliate commissions. May blessed clicks support my shameless commerce.
NEW BOOK: Sounds like Katy Butler has a new EOL classic.
From the article today in the San Francisco Chronicle, she says all the right and true things that we as hospice & healthcare chaplains know in our bones:
"We influence our lives, but we don’t control them, and the same goes for how they end. No matter how bravely you adapt to loss and how cannily you navigate our fragmented health system, dying will still represent the ultimate loss of control.
But you don’t have to be a passive victim. You retain moral agency. You can keep shaping your life all the way to its end — as long as you seize the power to imagine, to arrange support and to plan."
Check out her events, if you are local:
Katy Butler is a former Chronicle reporter and the author of “The Art of Dying Well” (Scribner, 2019). She will be speaking at Book Passage in Corte Madera on Tuesday, Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland on Thursday, and Books Inc. in Opera Plaza in San Francisco on Friday, all at 7 p.m.
Death Cafe January 30, 2019
By all measures, it was a wild success: thirty people in all, forming in two circles of fifteen to speak, listen, and learn about what they, and others think about death. We had students, elders, funeral directors, and clergy–all regular people running the gambit in age, profession and personality.
Thanks to my four co-hosts: Ali, Ken, Tylor and Nelson
Thanks to all the people who came to discuss and evolve in our understandings of our inevitable conclusion. The hosts did their job in making the space 'safe' for all voices to be heard - even the softest and to remind us all that what we sa is confidential...
RSVP for the next Death Cafe scheduled for March 27th, 2019
If you want to know more on what went on, please come to the next Death Cafe scheduled for March 27th, 2019. Consider an RSVP because we had to cap the last one, who are now first on the list. (info@GardenofChange.org)
Why I organized this Death Cafe?
Because when we avoid something (...like a conversation about death), we don't talk about it.
When we don't talk about it, we don't understand it.
When we don't understand something, we fear it.
And, fear is not a useful (or fun) operating system. Resilience is. Love is.
A synopsis by (surprisingly) Lao Tsu. (For me, it's like he was there...)
Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.
If you don't realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.
― Tao Te-Ching
on a Chaplain's life