Thursday, May 27, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

Memorial Day is a day aside to remember the sacrifice of men and women who have laid down their lives in battle protecting our country. We celebrate Memorial Day this year at the end of a deadly pandemic. This year I remember not only soldiers who died in war, but those who died on the frontline fighting what our former president called the “invisible enemy” of COVID 19.

At least six hundred thousand Americans have died in this war in the last year and a half. That is nearly as many as died in combat in all American wars combined (666k). More than 3,600 U.S. health care workers have perished on the frontlines in the war against COVID. That is more than died at Pearl Harbor or September 11. Let us remember them.

There are those who downplay their sacrifice, who undermine and thwart the efforts of healthcare providers. Some people ridicule the advice of the CDC and NIAID, calling the coronavirus epidemic a hoax, refusing to wear a mask or receive a vaccination for political reasons – not medical ones. Our country asked us to sacrifice a little comfort and convenience in this war, but many refused. They chose ideology above protecting Americans.

America is still at war. Like WWII after D-Day but before VE Day and VJ Day, the tide of the war has turned, but the war on COVID is not over. People are still dying. People are still fighting on the frontlines, while others party like it’s 2019. The war is not over till it’s over. Eight thousand people still die of COVID in the world every day. Healthcare workers are still risking their lives to care for these people.

Let is remember our fallen soldiers who died on the battlefield fighting a military enemy. Let us remember those who have died in hospitals fighting a viral enemy. Let us remember our healthcare warriors this Memorial Day. Let us honor their sacrifice. Let us remember that this war is still being waged in hospitals around the world. They are also heroes this Memorial Day. Let us honor and remember them.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Please Resuscitate

Recently I spent the night in the hospital for observation. While preaching a sermon last Sunday I had the classic symptoms of a heart attack. I got through the worship service but immediately drove to the emergency room. I jokingly explained that I had an allergic reaction to church! Two of my kids later suggested the Almighty was giving me a nudge to stop preaching! The hospital checked me out, including a COVID test, EKG, blood work, and a stress test.

My heart is confirmed to be fine. The episode appears to be a recurrence of labyrinthitis (inflammation of the inner ear), complete with cold sweats and vertigo. When this happened several years ago it permanently damaged the vestibular nerve in one of my ears. I was unable to walk unassisted for weeks. It gave me sympathy for people using walkers and canes. Because some symptoms persist I have an appointment with my primary care physician next week to assess the situation.

This blog post is not meant as a plea for sympathy. It is about something the hospitalist asked me in the ER. He asked if I wanted to be resuscitated. I quickly replied, “Yes, please!” The question was disturbing. Was he really considering letting me die? Would he ask that question of a 40 year-old man? Is this what ageism looks like? I have no other life-threatening disease. In his eyes am I an expendable old codger not worth reviving?

When I was being discharged the next morning, someone from the hospital came to my room and asked me all sorts of questions, obviously meant for the elderly. Do I live alone? Can I take care of myself? Are there stairs in my home? Can I navigate them? Do I get enough to eat? (Too much!) Do I feel like anyone is trying to take advantage of me? Do I feel safe? I can’t remember all the questions (Oh, oh!) but I know some had to do with elder abuse.

I am glad the questions are asked. They are necessary. But it made me feel old. It was then that I realized that I was being perceived as an elderly person. As somebody’s parent or grandparent. In retrospect most of the people who cared for me in the hospital were younger than my children, including my doctors. A youngster came into my room, and I thought he had wandered away from his mom. It turns out he is a medical student.

So, do I want to be resuscitated? Yes, please. I am only 70 years old, and I plan to be around for a while longer. I am quite healthy for my age. There may come a time when I will say “No” to that question. If I have a painful fatal disease, for example. I am an advocate for death with dignity, the right of people with a terminal illness to die on their own terms.  When the time comes, I have no desire to linger. Pull the plug. It is all spelled out in my advance directive.

Until then, please see me the same as you. Not old or young or middle-aged. Just a person … and more than a person. The Self within does not age. The brain and body may grow old but the Spirit is ageless. These bodies and brains are not who we are. They are just the momentary expressions of the Eternal that inhabits all of us.

Look into my eyes and you will see yourself. Look into your soul and you will see God. We are Spirit enfleshed in aging bodies. When the body returns to dust, then the Spirit returns to God. That is what the aged author of Ecclesiastes wrote. 

When you see yourself in me, then you can see God in all people – old or young, male or female, gay or straight, conservative or liberal, black or white. Then you can love your neighbor as yourself. We are one. We are ageless. 

So unless my physician advises otherwise or something happens between now and the end of the month, I plan to preach the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. We will see if God gives me another nudge. If you happen to be present and see this body sprawled at the base of the pulpit, consider this an invitation to use that CPR training you received. Please resuscitate.