Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ripping the Night Out of the Arms of the Sun

The next visit today was to a woman with breast cancer. This was just me and the palliative care doctor. He talked to her about her pain, and then she looked at my badge and asked, “And what can you do for me?” I told her what chaplains do and she requested a prayer. I prayed for her (and for the doctor, while I was at it), and when I was done, tears were streaming down her face, and she said, “Prayer is the only thing that really helps. Prayer is what helps.”

Next it was off to a palliative care department meeting, where there were about 25 people, of whom I was pleased to note I could name 18 or 19. Then another member of my small group and I took a shuttle to the other campus to spend the afternoon presenting our final self-evaluations. We did this in a small room with a huge window that looks west. First, Anita treated us to lunch from the taqueria truck outside. The dietician said I could have a slip once a week, so I requested a fish and chips burrito, which besides fish contained French fries, avocado, and chipotle sauce and was all I had hoped it would be. (I’m paying for it now, but it was worth it.)

The group I was in in the first half of the program had a steady trickle of conflicts, some involving me, some not. Not very fun, but we learned a lot and felt quite close to each other in the end. My new group has had no conflicts whatsoever. It is an excellent group, with young people and old people, white people and people of color. Sam is in my group, and an older woman, and a very young man (if he were 30 years older or I were 30 years younger, and if he weren’t moving across the country to study something very brainy in the fall, I would ask him out on a date the day after the program ends—he is a completely splendid person), and the new guy. The latter is extremely warm and kind, and also extremely intense. He listens in such an avid way that it can be off-putting.

When we do our self-evaluations, we also write about our relationship with each peer and affirm one of his or her strengths and offer at least one critique. In my critique of the new guy, I said that the way he listens sometimes makes me feel shy about sharing. In his “critique” of me, he offered one glowing compliment after the other, and right then, any lingering reservations about him finally evaporated—I can’t resist him any more—and our group is now officially one big lovefest. I will miss these people so much—the on-call schedule covering the rest of the year has now been published—but they will always, always be with me.

I listened this evening to Chris Cornell’s solo albums Carry On and Euphoria Morning. And now I know that he committed suicide. He must have been in horrendous pain, all alone in his last moments.
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