Monday, April 23, 2018

Mountain Musings

Sickness & Grief: How to Help Someone Through It

This past year has been a year of deaths in my family. My aunt died of cancer in January and my grandmother died on Saturday from congestive heart failure. This is the first time that I've experienced grief in a personal way, and throughout the process I've learned some valuable insights about helping others deal with sickness and grief which I've modeled after the 5 love languages.

1. Time. Keep visits and phone calls short. (Short means 15-30 minutes). Calls and visits from well-meaning folks requesting updates or offering condolences get overwhelming. If a loved one is suffering from a terminal illness, the remaining time is precious. Be respectful of it.

2. Service. In tough times, everyone says "if there's anything I can do to help, let me know." However, few people will accept such a vague offer. When you offer help, be specific. Ask if you can pet-sit, bring by a meal, do a load of laundry, take out the trash/recycling, or pick up some needed items from the grocery store. If possible, offer transportation and/or housing for out of town guests/relatives. If you're a coworker, pick up their shift or offer help on projects/tasks that are due. If you're a boss, extend grace.

3. Gifts. While flowers and cards are nice, there are more practical items you can send or lend. Hours of watching at someone's bedside can be heavy and stressful. Send a snack basket or bake a plate of cookies. Lend a soothing or uplifting CD (classical music or gentle praise songs are good choices). A scent-diffuser to provide aromatherapy can be helpful to mask sick-room smells, but be sure to clear it with the family and/or medical staff first.

4. Touch. Give hugs. Long, healing hugs. If appropriate, hold them when they cry. Cry with them. Sorrow with them. Place a reassuring hand on their shoulder or arm. Make sincere, unfaltering eye contact. Communicate compassion through your body language.

5. Words. Don't just say, "I'm praying for you." Text them an encouraging scripture verse. Call them and say a short prayer over the phone. Stop by in person, lay hands on them and pray. Listen to them. Be silent with them. Laugh with them. Reminisce and share memories with them. Like time, words are precious. Don't spout off insincere platitudes. Conversely, don't get into the comparing game. A simple "I know what you're going through because I went through it with my loved one," is sufficient to lend credibility to your empathy.

Grief is a funny thing and everyone deals with it differently. Some people want to be still and quiet and alone with their grief. Others want to get away from it by surrounding themselves with people or distracting themselves with work. Whatever the strategy, you can help people dealing with sickness and grief by being respectful of their time, offering specific services, sending practical gifts, communicating compassion through touch, and keeping your words brief but sincere.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

In Memoriam: A Tribute to my Grandmother

My grandmother passed away last night. "Passed away." It sounds so poetic. A watered-down version for inquiring acquaintances. But when you walk into the room after hours of death-watching and see the sunken sockets, the discolored extremities, the gaping mouth where breath has stilled, somehow "passed away" doesn't capture the rawness of it.

My grandmother was a follower of Christ and a woman of faith who embodied 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. She was patient with my quick-tempered grandfather for 50-plus years of marriage. She was kind to her neighbor's mentally-handicapped daughter who called her every morning for 20-some-odd years. She did not envy the lives of others--she was one of the most joyful and content people of my acquaintance, finding fulfillment in being a social worker and later a wife, mother, and active member of her community. She did not boast nor was she arrogant though she had a master's degree at a time when roughly 5% of American women had college degrees. She was never (intentionally) rude though at times her outspoken honesty combined with being hard-of-hearing caused some funny faux pas! She was not self-seeking--even on her deathbed, rather than talking about herself, she asked visitors and nurses about themselves, their children, and their grandchildren. She was not irritable or resentful when the nurse at the hospital forgot to page the doctor to request her cough medicine. Instead, she congratulated the same nurse on her upcoming nuptials at the shift change. She never rejoiced at wrongdoing, nor condoned it when her grandchildren misbehaved. (On the contrary, she was not above administering discipline when the situation called for it!) She rejoiced with the truth, closing her eyes when I read her scripture on Sunday mornings and raising her hands in worship when I played hymns and praise songs on YouTube. She bore, believed, hoped and endured to the end.

I'll miss watching NCIS and the Hallmark Channel with her. I'll miss setting in the kitchen reading her the funny papers. I'll miss her eggs benedict and pecan pies. I'll miss her tirelessly asking me, "meet any boys?", I'll miss her outspoken opinions, her sense of humor, her untiring interest and loving presence in my life. See you in heaven, Grandma.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Peru Update 10 - The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Happy Belated Easter!

It's amusing to look back on my previous update and see the glaring difference between my plans and expectations for the future and the actual reality of what transpired. The best laid plans of mice and men... 

Two weeks ago my church, Camino de Vida, launched a day of city-wide outreach called Servolution. I signed up as a volunteer interpreter to accompany a mission team from the States. The mission team was comprised of about fifty high school seniors and church leaders from a Pentecostal church in Oklahoma. We all loaded up in a bus (where I received a crash course in all the hip, new youth group games) and drove about an hour to the beach. Upon our arrival we split up into teams and handed out church flyers and free ice cream, played soccer with kids, and talked and prayed with people. Unfortunately, I was not sage enough to pack sunscreen so I received a hideous sunburn on my neck. (Which provided the perfect opportunity for my one American high school student to crack "redneck" jokes.) The photo below reminds me of Where's Waldo. 

The following weekend (Easter weekend) I had two days off and was itching to travel, so at the last minute I pulled together a group of people to spend a day in Ica (a desert oasis about four hours south of Lima). The travel Groupon consisted of sand-boarding (surfing on sand), ATV-ing, a boat tour of the islands (which have seals and penguins), and a free lunch. However, the afternoon before the trip, I was treated to a Marciano (homemade ice pop) from a street vendor. Never again. I spent the greater part of the afternoon with my head in the toilet. By evening I still felt awful, so I chalked it up as a loss and gave my ticket away to a friend who was unable to go for financial reasons. I spent the majority of my Easter vacation sipping Ginger ale, doing taxes, and binge-watching Downton Abbey. (Not as glamorous as a desert oasis, but certainly more restful.) By Sunday I was feeling well enough to go surfing at the beach with a friend. Unfortunately, the waves were rather turbulent and the surf instructor advised us against going out, so we contented ourselves with sunbathing and walking around the park. (Where we took this epic cat selfie!) 

Then this past weekend I was planning to attend a pajama party with some friends (which got cancelled at the last minute) and visit a few museums with another friend (who also cancelled on me). Not to be deterred, I went to the museum by myself only to was closed for a special event. &#X1f614 At this point I was so blasé about ruined plans that I spent the afternoon popping in and out of antique shops and mooching off Starbucks' free wifi before heading to church. It made for quite a relaxing close to the weekend.  

Contrary to what you might suppose, the accumulation of spoiled plans did not embitter or frustrate my type-A personality; in fact, quite the contrary. I feel that living in South America has made me more flexible, spontaneous, and open to change. A friend once gave me incredibly sage advice: "It's okay to make plans. But learn to be okay if those plans change." I have absolutely no idea what the next two weeks, two months, or two years hold, but I do know that whatever plans I make are almost guarunteed to change, and I'm okay with that. I know God has lots more adventures in store regardless of whether they are meticulously planned-out in advance, or spur-of-the-moment, wild-hair whims.

And to end on a happy note, I did finally get to see a museum (though not the one I originally planned). After school one day, my friend Estefany and I decided to go the Car Museum in La Molina on our way home from work. The museum is a private auto collection owned and maintained by an elderly Italian man who made his fortune as a noodle tycoon. It was fun seeing all the old cars (130!) and laughing about noodles. Sometimes spontaneous adventures are the best ones. &#X1f60a

Peru Update 9 - Patty's, Padres & Gradschool

Happy Saint Patty's Day!!!

Life continues in full swing here. Last Saturday we had Parent's Orientation at school. In addition to leading everyone in the pledges (a somewhat humorous spectacle considering how few of the parents speak English), I gave a brief presentation on Learning Center procedures for the new parents and reviewed some of the basics for the veterans. Work keeps me busy from 8 - 5 during the week, and life keeps me busy the remainder.

One of the things that's kept me busy this past week is reviewing my application for Wake Forest University. Last Wednesday I received a formal offer from WFU to join them for the 2016-17 school year. In addition, they offered me a partial scholarship which will cover over half of my tuition costs! I credit this to a gracious God and my personal army of prayer warriors (you all!) Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your prayers and support from the bottom of my heart. I could not be more thrilled for this next phase of my life. 

This Saturday my church is conducting a city-wide outreach event called Servolution. We will be breaking into groups and performing different social services such as painting the police station, cleaning streets, giving out care baskets, and hosting block parties for different communities. I will be joining a short-term mission team from the States and serving as an interpreter and guide while working alongside them. I'm looking forward to fellowshiping with my compatriots.

Next week I get two days of vacation for Easter (Hallelujah!) which I will be using to travel, hang out with friends, and do taxes. (Yay!) Hopefully after Easter weekend I will have some more exciting pictures to share. &#X1f60a