October 2016

The Stroke of Midnight

As a member of a youth ministry team, I was sleeping on the floor of a church gym. My brothers knew I was in there, but they couldn’t find a way into the building. They went from door to door without a flashlight, using the building’s limited exterior lighting and finally locating a door that someone, by chance, had forgotten to pull tight and lock. Whether by stroke of luck or stroke of Providence, they were just as surprised as the chaperone sitting by the door when they pulled on the handle and the door swung open with a rush of cold November air.

Thoughts on Prayer

After all my years of theological training and all my years of experience as a minister, I have come to a simple and rigorous definition of prayer. Prayer is the discipline of listening to the heart of God (one of many names that can be given to the Divine Spirit of the Universe). It is not the human rhetoric of advising God as if God needs to be convinced to do the right thing.

Compassionate Anesthesia

The anesthesiologist walked in with a virtual reality headset–clearly intent on distancing himself from the scene at hand–and, while ambling around the foot of the operating table, chuckled to the rest of us what a nice he would have of the waves in Hawaii.

“We should have let him die,” he said. “It would have saved us time and money.”

New Widow

Wind scatters leaves as I approach the house.
The geranium he hung lies on the floor.
The same porch board’s loose. The coir mat sheds.
I fumble for the key and push at the door
that opens to guitar amps, music books
and cardboard boxes left by the man
who asked me not to touch his clothes
or toss the newspapers till he came home
from the hospital, sorted through the stuff
once and for all to organize his life.

The Secret

Gabriel Foster

“If my father dies, you’re going down with him.”

The words pierced the air, and suddenly there was silence.

I hadn’t noticed Frank’s son at first. He’d been pacing in the back of the family group gathered in our ICU waiting room. Now, up close, I could appreciate how large and intimidating he was. And I’d just had the thankless job of telling him, along with the rest of his family, a shocking, completely unexpected truth: Frank wasn’t dying, he was already dead.

The Day Grandpa Passed

The Day Grandpa Passed

Michael Leach

About the artist: 

MIchael Leach currently works as a data and quality specialist in a hospital setting. He is also a published researcher, writer, poet and photographer with special interests in health and history. His creative work has been published in The Medical Journal of Australia, Medical Humanities, The Galway Review and Pulse–voices from the heart of medicine. Michael creates visual images in order to capture and share the poignancy and beauty that he perceives in everyday life. He resides in Central Victoria, Australia.

About the artwork:

“This photo, taken from the window of my office at a regional hospital, shows the darkness of the day my eighty-nine-year-old grandpa passed, the old hospital in which he spent his final days and the bright light he always radiated. It was a cold winter’s morning when a nurse called my office to convey urgent news: Grandpa was dying at my workplace’s hospice. I dropped everything and rushed …

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Crash Course

Marilyn Barton

“Nursing students needed to work in the University Hospital, good pay, orientation.”

As a rising nursing-school senior in the 1970s, I naïvely applied for the job above without getting the full details. No one mentioned that I’d be working in a psychiatric unit housing twenty-five aggressive, catatonic or schizophrenic patients, many of whom had been locked away for years.

The entrance sign, which should have read “Locked Psych/Med/Surg Unit,” said simply “5 East.”

On my first evening shift, I overheard two nurses discussing how to monitor a new patient, transferred from the federal psych facility across town.

“Can we get the student to do it?” said one.

One Was Answered

All through November he prayed, “Please God, help this pain, and please help me find out what is wrong so I can heal.”

Through December: “Please God, when I see the doctor, don’t let it be cancer. And I beg you to please help this pain.”

In January and February his prayer changed to, “Please God, let the chemotherapy and radiation work.”

Praying to Pray

I was 25 years old, a fourth-year medical student, and suffering from a severe depression. I was getting cognitive behavioral therapy (which was then fairly new) from a psychiatry resident at my medical school. I was a good patient and kept a journal describing my therapy. About a week after thinking seriously about suicide, I wrote this prayer in my journal:
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