I got to spend the day after New Year’s Day with Carol Joy. We had brunch at Santaneca and then spent the afternoon playing cards at my place and getting caught up.
That week at work, I saw yet another exceedingly well-known person in a hospital room—Jodie says I seem to have a knack for this—and I also went into a room to offer a blessing to a dying woman to see that one of her children is an acquaintance of mine. I ran into one of the biggest benefactors of my entire life, right after my own parents, in one of our waiting rooms; his wife was having surgery. This person, with tremendous kindness and goodwill, trained me how to do the work that I did for nearly a decade. Another new patient on one of my units turned out to be the wheelchair-bound fellow who often asks me for money near 16th St. and Valencia.
A patient I spent quite a bit of time with a couple of weeks ago expressed a lot of appreciation for the care she was receiving, including spiritual care. She thanked me repeatedly for my “reflective” listening, and seemed to really like a guided meditation I led her in. I Duckducked her later—used DuckDuckGo, the search engine that doesn’t track its users or their searches, to do some cyber-snooping. When the NSA asks them, “What’s Bugwalk been looking up?”, they can honestly say, “We have no idea.” I have nothing to hide, but I don’t like knowing that if I get curious about how to make a bomb using only ingredients from my own underwear drawer or the best way to skin a cat, Google (and Facebook) will cheerfully tell the NSA all about it. As for my patient, it turned out she’s kind of famous because she has lived with an advanced stage of a serious disease for many, many years and has worked to improve understanding about living with this disease and about what palliative care can offer.
Another patient that week said he felt despair about some news he’d gotten, which he said felt like a river of sludge coursing through his chest.
One of my co-workers recently got a new laptop and treated me to a cup of tea in the cafeteria in exchange for my trying to figure out why Pandora wouldn’t work. I did fix that, and do several other simple pieces of configuration, for which she was extravagantly grateful. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed the tech support aspects of my former job. Tech support and chaplaincy require some of the same skills.
The co-worker with the new laptop mentioned that she once accidentally walked in on the autopsy of a young girl. She said the top of the decedent’s head had been removed, leaving a neat circle, and that her face had been peeled down so that her features weren’t visible. I’m not sure if that would be better or worse. The one time I saw someone with his face peeled down, I did not enjoy the experience; this was during the yearlong chaplaincy class at the Sati Center, when they took us to an anatomy lab to visit the cadavers.
I arrived at TWMC the rainy morning of January 10, 2017, to find clerical and administrative members of the Teamsters picketing in front of the hospital. Something about this touched me profoundly and I arrived in the student office crying. (A good cry seems to be necessary every now and then in this line of work.) Nearly sobbing, I told one of my peers how upsetting it is to see people standing in the rain in effect saying, “I work 40 hours a week and would like to be able to pay my rent,” while smirking billionaires in Washington, DC, hand each other even more riches.
On my way to see patients that day, I met an extremely nice fellow in the stairwell. He said that he once did clinical pastoral education himself, but his religion wouldn’t ordain gay people, and he didn’t want to live a dual life, so he went into fundraising instead. He asked, “Are you the head of the program?” and when I said I wasn’t, he asked, “Are you a CPE supervisor?” CPE supervisor is one thing I hope never to be; no, I am just another program member, I told him. I was thinking that maybe it was my professional appearance and air of authority that made him think I had some elevated role, but it’s probably just that I look old. Nearly every single time I get on Muni, someone leaps up and asks if I want to sit down. I’m only 54! I wouldn’t call that young, but it’s also not the same as being 90. I guess all this courtesy is because my hair is quite grey now. I felt a little better when I lately saw a woman who to my eye was no more than 40 and who had long, flowing, dark hair offered a seat on the bus.