Author Archives: stimple

Hand Cross

Greg and Mary introduced me to Wayne, an older but sprightly and vigorous gentleman. Though I have yet to meet Wayne in person, I feel I know him quite well due to the discussions I’ve had with Greg and Mary about Wayne but, also, because of something we share in common. More of that later. Anyway, Greg told me that Wayne has been hand-making hand crosses for a long time. He has made, perhaps, thousands and thousands over the years to give to friends, work mates, chaplains, hospitals, schools, churches, and many other people and organizations. He doesn’t charge for these – or if you do decide to give something to him, he will make a donation to a worthy cause.

If you don’t specify a wood, he will make your hand crosses from whatever stock he has about at the time. If, however, you have a special piece of wood or lumber, he will gladly craft a hand cross for you from your piece of wood.

I have seen our hospice chaplains carry a form of hand cross. They aren’t exactly like Wayne’s and, in fact, don’t appear to be wood at all. They sometimes carry them when they are making their patient visits in hospitals and facilities. I like the hand crosses because they are fairly small, they’re designed to fit in the palm of your hand, they might be used to start a conversation, and they are something that might be comforting in stressful times for one reason or another. I carry one in my hospice visiting bag.

The craftsmanship, care, and story behind these crosses make them special to me. Note that Wayne signs each one of his crosses with Faye & Wayne. He has been doing this for years. The one you see in the photos is a right handed cross. He (and I have a few) makes left handed crosses, too. If it is a left handed cross, Wayne puts a small “(L)” after the signature. Signing with his name and his wife’s name makes these pretty special in their own right. The ones recently delivered to me are very special, as you will read underneath the photos.

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The rest of the story is that Wayne’s wife Faye passed away a month ago after over sixty years of marriage. He is in mourning, of course, but continues to putter, work with his local church, volunteer for several local service organizations, and still finds time to make his hand crosses. He made ten for me a week or two ago and signed each one Faye & Wayne.

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Extent Essence

590_ugly_vultureIn beauty, there is extent and there is essence. If observing beauty, the question arises as to how much – to what extent – do I like the beauty. For example, if I hear music, how much do I like it? Is it amazing and wonderful and moving or is it not much more than a shrug of the shoulders and a meh? If I see a picture or a painting, does the beauty in the form take me to other places and make me wonder about other times or lives? Or does the picture do nothing more than make we want to look at the next picture? The point is that, in beauty, there is extent – how much do I prefer or not prefer the beauty.

But then there is essence. I argue that all things have an essence of beauty in them even if, at first glance, it appears grotesque or poorly done. It might be hard to identify the essence, but all things have an essence of beauty. A beautiful person – it’s not hard to see the essence of beauty in him or her. But a landscape of war strewn with bodies and destruction? It takes some doing but I believe there is beauty even in such an evil thing. Consider what the scene was before and what it can be after. Consider the essence of beauty in the silence and holiness of the location. Wonder about the beauty in the sheer rawness of the emotions before, during, and after the destruction.

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Opinion Right

ooineIt’s too bad that most people think they have a constitutional and human right to voice their opinion about anything and everything whenever and however they want to voice it. The idea of having an opinion and then telling everyone about it is tightly weaved into our core and being as a culture and society, isn’t it? With social platforms like Facebook and Twitter and texting (to name a few), we are each given an uncensored, guilt-free, 24 hour a day, international medium to spew, vent, spout, and shout our opinions about anything and everything with little regard for consequence. (This, by the way, is why I cancelled my Facebook account years ago and I will never open it up again!)

Maybe more to my point, I’m tired of opinions not because they are your opinions, but that you feel inclined to voice your opinions without any due consideration at all for what others will think. I understand that this is a slippery slope discussion, but I am truly sensitized to statements and comments – while certainly consisting of honest and open opinions – that are obviously made by a conversant who is neither considering the interests and sensitivities of others nor is the opinionator inclined to consider the long term effects of badly phrased or poorly intentioned words.

It’s like passing out sticks of dynamite to a bunch of convicted pyros, giving a $1,000,000,000 to a person with no money, transferring the ownership of a sports car to a person who can’t drive, or offering an unlimited ceiling credit card to a person with a poor credit rating and saying, “Well, express yourself in ways that best suit you and your character. Go on. It’s your right!”

In my perfect world, everyone will have a right to voice an opinion conditioned on the expectation that they have fully taken into account the sensitivities of their audience and after considering the repercussions of saying what is intended to be said.

(Even as I finish writing this, a tweet shows up on my feed from one angry individual to another angry individual that reads like this: “That is true.. Look it up and u don’t own twitter.. I can tweet what I want FO!” Opinion? Yes. Highly insensitive and incredibly selfish? Very yes!)

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Loss Touch

hugeA few days ago, I visited a new patient. As it turns out, he was comfortably asleep so there wasn’t much I could do for him. But one of his daughters was visiting and sitting quietly when I entered his room. When I entered, she perked up and was happy to have someone to talk with for awhile. She told lots of interesting stories about her father and family. I could tell that she liked talking and having a conversation.

She was a teacher up until a few years ago – she has since retired and moved to Florida. I asked about her own family. She mentioned some sons and then told me that – she had lost her husband five years ago to cancer. I was dumbfounded. This is why she was wanting to talk. I told her my story and the entire tone of our conversation changed dramatically.

Anyway, after about 45 min of good, solid conversation, it was time for me to leave. I told her that I planned to visit on a certain day of the week for awhile and she said she looked forward to me visiting with her father and, she hoped, she would be around for another week or so to enable us to meet again.

As I was leaving and we were saying our goodbyes in the hall, she said, “I am a hugger. I hope you don’t mind.” I shook my head. “Of course not,” I said. She gave me a big hug and then she said, “You know how it is, of course, being by yourself. Without someone around to give a meaningful touch or hug every now and then, it gets lonely and you start to feel useless. I hope you don’t mind.”

Her words have been ringing in my ears for days. Yes. I miss kind and sincere touches from someone special that say, “I notice you and I care for you.” My new friend is right. Without touch and hugs, it does get lonely and I do begin to feel useless.

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Black White

ignorOh how I wish sometimes that things were black and white. As a person of faith, I think the only thing that truly is black and white is the answer to the question “Am I faithful to God or am I not faithful to God?” I don’t think there is a gray answer to this question.

But when it comes to a relationship, are we ever truly on safe ground when we say absolutely positively that something is the way it is? Of course, we spend much of our lives looking for relationships premised on honest fairness, open values, and transparent sensitivities. And, thank goodness, there are some people who are generally like this – most of the time. I say mostly because we all are fallible and, in my experience, those who claim the high ground – either implicitly or explicitly – seem to be the ones who often fall the hardest with the biggest splash or fall the furthest with the loudest screams.

And how often do we look for innocence? I think that except in young children, there is not innocence. Saying this, even the “innocent” party in a relationship can be held culpable in some way or for some reason. Along these lines, we sometimes like to play the ignorance or “didn’t know” card – the victimization thing. Now I want to be careful here. There are victims in this world due to circumstances beyond their control. Yes, there are legitimate victims so don’t get me wrong.

But I prefaced my discussion as being within the constraints of a relationship. And in this area of humanness, I think that ignorance is more often the cause for relational failure and less often an appropriate excuse. Ignorance is not bliss in relationships.

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Grief 101

mwhhospiceI sat in on the Oct 1 version of Grief 101 yesterday. These excellent sessions are sponsored for the community – free of charge – by Mary Washington Hospice, the people who I volunteer for. Yesterday’s topic was interesting to me both because I deal with it in working with patients but also because I wonder sometimes about me and my situation. (Click on the photo to the right for a larger image in order to see what is being offered the rest of the year.)

Several things about grief and depression from today’s seminar:

1. Among other differences, grief can be characterized by waves of grief – up and down during the day or week. Clinical depression is most often characterized by a constant, sustaining sense of desperation for long periods (days or weeks) of time.
2. Additionally, grief can often be characterized by guilt and remorse where depression usually is not about guilt and remorse.
3. And finally, grief can often be characterized by a person being open to care and support where depression in a person is often characterized by a person not generally desiring support.
4. A person can be “steeped in grief” but should not be concerned that he is in a depressive state.
5. Grief is a very natural reaction to loss whereas depression is not normal and, if diagnosed by a medical expert as being clinical depression, the condition will require professional care.
6. In grief, it must simply be accepted at some point that “you will not be the same forever.”
7. One thing not to do is “slump into our grief.” We often – both mentally and physically – begin to slump and get lazy in grief.
8. “Managing grief needs to become like reconciling a balance sheet. Good things will result in more good things but bad things will result in bad things. A balance needs to be attained.”
9. Complete numbness in grief is not good. Perhaps a bit of numbing (medications, sleep, eating food, etc.) is okay but too much numbness will likely completely cover the pain. When pain is completely masked, true healing will not be able to occur. We must learn to handle both happiness and pain in order to maintain a semblance of balance.
10. The best way to get through grief is by being in a safe place with a trusted support group of people with common issues and interests. There is not any better way to manage grief than by being in a support group for a suitable period of time

· 2 Comments. Posted in grief.

Strive Seek

tinnieThere lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

– Adapted from Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson

A man in his last years, a man hoping his past is his future,
A man yearning for adventure and conquest,
A man desirous of relevance,
A man for one more noble deed, one more discovery,
A man looking for camaraderie and companionship,
A man not wanting to fade away,
A man willing to pursue beyond the horizons…

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Cry Together

cryslingWhen someone begins to cry, I feel helpless. I want to touch and hold – but sometimes it’s not appropriate or wanted. I want to understand – but it’s usually not a good time to talk too much. And sometimes I want to fix – but many times nothing is actually broken as much as things are out of kilter or emotions simply have built up and need to erupt – a good cry is in order!

Someone else’s tears makes me hurt badly. I was with a lady recently who was crying when I arrived and I had to leave her crying. She was hurting, mourning, and feeling sad for herself. Unfortunately, she cries much of the time by herself and with others. If only there had been something that I could have done to relieve her of her pain. I was with someone else recently and – after we had been talking for awhile about a common situation – her crying began. She didn’t want to be touched, held, talked to, or even noticed. It hurt me to not be able to immediately help but I also knew that whatever it was all about, it was hurting her more than me so I figured I needed to lay low for awhile. I wasn’t sure what to do other than to be available, if needed. After 30 min or so, we were able to get back on track and nothing else was said about the sad time. I hope I didn’t let her down somehow.

Crying is as much an emotion as laughing. When someone laughs – I want to laugh with them. Likewise, I am getting to where when someone cries – I want to cry with them. I enjoy your happiness, but I empathize with your pain, too. Let’s laugh and cry together, okay?

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Music Lessons


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Travel Time

dlta767If you read this blurb sometime between mid-afternoon Sun to early morning on Mon Virginia time then you will be reading while Zak and family are traveling to Korea by air. It is a long trip – very long for three little ones – and I truly hope it goes well. I’m tracking his progress on the Internet regularly and hope – some how – to hear from him upon arrival. The phone-Internet situation over there is completely different than here so I’m not too worried if I don’t hear for a few days but it’s amazing how much we depend on and hope for instant notification when or if something happens. We all need to be patient. Korea is 13 hours ahead of Virginia so if it is noon here on Sun then it is 1am on Mon there. Pretty cool. It brings a whole new meaning to wondering when to celebrate a new year at midnight!

I’ve said much about Zak and his choices and plans so I will not belabor the point. But this is a big day – the beginning of something pretty amazing. Of course, thousands and thousands of military people and their families have traveled to and lived in Korea over the years so this is not a first and is pretty routine – except that this is about some family people who I care for so give me a break for a few years while I ponder the significance of what is happening.

If and when I hear something, I will let you know right here. Between the asterisks below. Check back for updates.

12pm ET Sun – Leaving hotel for SEATAC airport.

2:30pm ET Sun – Call from Zak. Everyone is at gate. No problems checking in despite 14 bags of luggage (it’s all the goods they have for about a month until first shipment arrives). Kids are okay and anxious. Last call for bathroom break and snacks then loading. Direct flight with no stops. Current chaplain and staff in Korea will pick them up in Seoul upon arrival with two Navy vans. All seems set to go. No turning back now.

7:30pm ET Sun – Latest tracking information. Hope it’s accurate.


5am ET Mon – Well, according to tracking apps, they’ve arrived. About an hour ago. I haven’t heard anything but that’s to be expected. Hope they’re in one piece.


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