But Still I Can’t Leave

The Hotel California lyrics stay with me. Believe me, I have already checked out, but I can’t leave. I have looked at the locked doors on each end of the hallway, even tried to bribe the lady picking up the breakfast trays – could I fit in her cart with doors closed? If so, that sounded reasonable till my nurse saw me staring at the cart said: “They don’t drive those things very well. You’ll be banged up against walls, doors and who knows what else. You’ll never survive.”

My heart failure doc is talking with my electrophysiologist to say that he believes the extra lead from my pacer is needed to make my heart more efficient in pulling off the fluids – making the heart works better. So, some of the decision about me hanging around here will have to do with when, or if, that procedure should be done at this time, and will the oral diuretics work well enough to get most of the fluid off.

All of this stuff has made me so much more in awe of those people in our congregations who have spent many more days in the hospital than this wimpy soul. I think about a young man in Asheboro who was diagnosed with a rare stomach cancer. His oncologist told him that his treatment would take him to hell and back… and it did. He spent three weeks unconscious in the ICU. After about six months he died at home.

I also think of Dana at Pleasant Garden UMC who has been through years and years of hospitals, procedures and clinical trials. But she is a fighter who is the energizer bunny. I believe she has been in Duke hospital so much that she has her own room. These people and many others have been through the mill. Some have been through hell and back several times… and yet they fight, with a positive attitude and great faith. I honor them all and wish I was as patient and positive as they always seem to be. Each has been and continues to be an inspiration to us all.

And so, I pray: Lord, look upon this wimpy, whiney soul with mercy. Help me be strong in my weakness, positive in my doubt, and uplifting in my living before all people. Amen.

Hotel California

I was very appreciative that Pastor Mark came by again today. We always have a good time visiting. While he was here, he asked: “Do you know when you are going some?” My reply has become the usual one these days: “The doc says maybe tomorrow.” Ha! Ha! Ha! He had the perfect come back. He said it is kinda like the Eagles song Hotel California. It says “You can check out any time you like. You just can never leave!” How very appropriate that is for what the docs say every day… “Maybe tomorrow???”

This is the way I must look when the docs say “maybe tomorrow.” At least, that is the way I feel.

They have reduced my weight by 30 pounds, reprogramed my Pacemaker, stopped IV Potassium, and wrapped my lower legs in the unna-boots. All of this has moved me toward a discharge date that is sooner rather than later. All that being said – maybe, just maybe tomorrow will be the date I not only can check out – but actually leave.

Martha asked if there was a little sarcasm in my statement about the food. You bet ya… there was plenty. Each meal arrives cold except for what is supposed to be cold. They left the taste somewhere else ’cause it sure wasn’t included. However, I must defend them. Can you imagine having to prepare somewhere around 300 meals that are delivered to at least five different floors, in several sections of the hospital, and get the food delivered warm? I personally find it almost impossible to fix an over-medium egg without breaking the yellow. Probably a 50/50 chance of getting something worth eating. So, I have to be a little forgiving – I could never attempt to do what they do.

Hotel California

Perhaps today you can play Hotel California and smile, knowing that those words and that tune is stuck in my little pea brain.

And so, I pray: Lord, you know that patients I asked you to help me acquire? Well, I need another dose. I think the other one is about to run out. Put a smile on my face and hope in my heart, and help me not only to check out, but to actually be able to leave Cone Hospital. (Today). Amen.

Caught Sneaking Out of the Hospital

Earlier the Internal Medical team hinted that I would be going home today. Later in the morning they came back in (looked like about 10 of them) and said they were having the cardiac team to consult. First they send in the PA to get info, and then later (before lunch) came in looking like they were about to do an intervention. They examined me and said, even tough I had lost 26 pounds, I still have fluid and some of that fluid is around my heart.

In addition to that, they mentioned some Greek medical language with a person from Klein’s office about pacing too much. The short of that is they may change my pacemaker to a bilateral type… makes the heart pump differently. They also ordered these wrappings around my lower legs. It is called some kind of uno-boot. I am required to lye in bed with my feet higher than my head. That is to reduce the retention of fluid in my legs.

Soooooo, here I am knowing these docs are doing their best to get me more healthy. And I pray: Lord, I need your help to give me the needed cooperation and patients to boldly and understandably do all I can to work positively with all who are trying to heal me… even the people in the cafeteria who bring me that wonderful food each day. Amen.

When the Grumpy Sneaks Up on You

Ever had one of those days that just started out poorly – badly? This poor start can ruin your entire day if something doesn’t happen to turn it around. A few days ago I had awaken from an entire night of hooked up to a potassium drip. It started at midnight and didn’t finish until around 9:00am. However, before 9:00am they started another drip of Lasix, which would drip for an hour. I was not a happy camper. In fact, I was probably getting on the grumpy side of life.

Two IV drips running and the breakfast they brought me was absolutely the wrong items. I didn’t like a single thing on that tray except for the milk. And, and, and I found out that I had another eight hours of a potassium drip added to my schedule. I am afraid you could see the steam rising from my grumpiness. It was there and getting ready to blaze.

With all this stuff going the wrong way, and my disgust with the way the day was beginning, something very, very small changed my whole outlook. While waiting for my reorder to get here, I looked at the little carton of 2% milk from Glenview Farms. I was reading down through the stats and found in the ingredients this statement: “Contains Milk.” For some reason that struck me as amazingly funny – a milk carton having the ingredients of milk in it. Who would have ever thought to put that on a carton of milk.

For some reason my grumpy old man left and a smiling guy sat in his place – all because of that little quote. I guess I must be quite simple minded, but that changed it all – my outlook, my approach to the day, my acceptance of the things happening that day. I found out that when the grumpy is sneaking up on you – look for something funny. It could change your entire day. Perhaps put a sign on the fridge that reads: Contains Food.

And so I pray: Lord, thank you for changing my day in this simple but strange way. It changed my entire day – perhaps I saw a little of you in that message… calling me to laugh rather than grumble. Amen.

Beginning of a New Day

The sun is coming up announcing a new day, and already I’m filled with dread. My night has been one of those restless ones where your mind is going ninety miles an hour, and more than normal time in the bathroom. The sun coming up should make me feel a blessing rather than a burden. But it seems there is always this battle with a little depression and wonder.

As I take my blood sugar and get ready to choke down all those pills, I look out the glass door in the back and wonder where is the joy when dawn brings this new day? Sometimes it seems like a struggle just to get up and stagger into the kitchen. Many times I am weary and ticked off that this old body fails me. I would just love to be able to do what I use to do… walk, run, help out around the house… and go fishing. Back in the day, with about 90 pounds on my back, I would do a 25 mile force march twice a month. We would run around Camp Lejeune with each squad carrying telephone polls – teaching us team work. One hundred sit-ups and fifty pull-ups. Those days are forever gone.

And so I pray: O Lord, give me grace to meet every challenge that comes my way today. Give me the strength to be better rather than bitter. Turn my despair into delight. Even when my hands fumble, I will fold them in prayer to you. Though my mouth struggles to make sense, help me share a smile with someone coming my way. Help me to never be too old to continue to grow in grace. Bring on this new day, O Lord, and help me be a positive part of this day for me and others. Amen.

Hope For Today

Lord, I need a double-dose of hope today. Not that pie-in-the-sky kind promised by the charlatan preachers on television. Not even a pretty-sure guess. I need the real kind of hope that brings lightness to a heavy day.

I am tired of gritting my teeth, trying to swallow the pain that is my reality. When I look back on my life, I see how you have walked faithfully with me through all sorts of times and circumstances. I remember a time in Vietnam, an Easter Sunday in 1968, when we fought a battle on hill 881. This is just not the way to celebrate Easter. That afternoon, as I sat on the crest of that hill with the battle won, I remember looking at all the dead North Vietnamese soldiers laying around me. And for some unknown reason saying to you: “Lord, I’ve seen enough. I want to go home.” What arrogance on my part, even though it was a deep, deep hope. The strange thing was that within three days I was in the hospital in Japan.

There were moment I though you had forgotten me… maybe it was more like I forgot You? Those were the times I had forgotten to notice that you were holding me close. And so, if stubborn pain and lack of energy refuse to subside for a while, I will still whisper your name.

And so I pray: Lord, refocus my mind on you ’cause in you I find my real hope. Amen.

Hey Dad, Do You Remember….

Often times now days I have to stop mid-sentence when I am wanting to ask my dad a question. He will know the answer. Then I realize that dad went to that heavenly country in 2010. I can no longer ask for that fatherly advice or find out those tricky answers about family situations. Have you ever found yourself doing that? I think it must be one of those things we all unconsciously do.

Bidding farewell is hard, even though we know they are much better off now. It hurts to reach out for that hand and it is not there anymore. I especially miss all the knowledge he had to offer about family ancestors. Where did Uncle Tommy Moore live in Stuart, Virginia. I’ve been there once, as a child, but I could never find my way back. I remember the rolling hills of their apple orchard and the cousins we found anew. I remember the big White House and how the meal was set outside like we were at a reunion.

Today, in my sunset years, I find a bittersweet remembrance so far away. No-one I can ask, especially not my dad. Tears gather as I remember some of life’s stories we created together. In the solitude of the early evening I sometimes sink into sadness. Maybe there is some comfort in knowing that Jesus wept.

Lord, you never said the journey would be without pain and struggle. One day I will celebrate with loved ones and friends who wait there for me in that heavenly country. Til then, we will walk hand in hand through this journey. Amen.

SAT Tests and Scores

This morning my Grandson, Noah will be taking his SAT. A lot is riding on that test. As a senior, he now has a 4.70 GPA. He wants to become a history teacher, ultimately a history professor in college. He is a great student who does love history. But this SAT combined with his GPA will determine what scholarships he is offered – and Lord knows he needs all the financial help he can get. It will also determine which schools he will be able to attend.

Noah has had letters and emails from Western Carolina University. He has yet to apply at any school. He could probably go to any school (with scholarships) he might chose. But Noah is a homebody who likes a small college with a good teaching program. He likes Greensboro College partly because of the swim coach. He is on the hight school swim team and looks forward to being on GC’s swim team. He really likes the swim coach who he says is a really nice guy.

Back in my day, I joined the Marines and did not take an SAT. After service I was accepted at Guilford College, moved to Pfeiffer College for my BA, Duke Divinity School for my M.Div, and Trinity for my D.Min. I got through with the help of the GI Bill, grants, scholarships and student loans… while working all the time as a pastor. It took about 20 years to pay this off… but we did it.

I don’t know an SAT prayer except Lord, help me be clear-headed and ready to give my all for this test. Take away my nerves and help me be calm and assured that you are with me in all that I do. Amen.

Blessings of Untold Joy

Sometimes I wonder if long life is really a gift. Bone-tired and weak, I can’t even open a jar of dill pickles. I feel so useless at times. And then I begin to think of the many blessings my long life has provided. I have watched and participated as our son and grandchildren have grown from tiny little fragile infants, toddlers, middle-schoolers, to high school. The wedding of our son to a beautiful bride. Our grandchildren, each one remarkable in their own way… all smart as they can be. Tears of joy have filled my eyes at countless dance performances, talent shows, Christmas programs, t-ball, soccer, swimming matches, award ceremonies and soon to be our first high school honors graduate grandson.

My life has been chockfull of Christmas mornings and summer vacations. These are the special gifts of a long life. These tender moments make me rich beyond measure. It is true, I have known the heights and depths of both joy and heartache. But through it all God has been blessing me with untold joy.

And so, I pray: O Lord, may the footprints I leave behind my life guide others to see the love and grace you pour upon us all. I accept today as yet another day filled with Your gifts. I open my heart with gratitude, knowing the purpose in this day… to be more like Christ. Amen.

Another One of Those Days

Ever feel you are just here? Today is another one of those days for me. It seems like playing leap frog – leaping from one day of depression over good days – positive days – only to land on another day filled with depression. From feeling good and worthwhile to days of feeling I am just here. Stalled out. Just a little more than taking up space. It seems like I am just marking time until God is ready to receive me in the heavenly country.

Going through the motions, trying to smile, of living without really being alive. Marching in the same place over and over, day after day. Going nowhere. Just here.

Lord, help me wrestle with this sluggish depression. Sweep away my gloomy spirit. Change the way I am looking at life. Let me find that tiny ray of sunlight that pierces the darkest clouds. Lift me out of that abyss that says I am just here to where I know I am, and always will be, in your loving arms. Walk beside me through the Valley all the days of my life. Amen.

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