Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Friday, March 24, 2023

Who benefits from hospital visits?

Thursday February 9, 2023

Some people do hospital visiting as easily as eggs roll off counters. I don’t -- the same way I don’t do windows. Or go door-knocking in political campaigns. I can, but I avoid it.
My dislike of hospital visiting might derive from having made most of my hospital visits to dying people -- my mother, my father, my son, my wife…
During the year I served a Toronto congregation as a “pastoral associate” – a fancy description for a lay person filling a clergy role – one of my duties was hospital visiting. I had to force myself to do it.
One woman, I remember, was just days from death. Puffy, weak, semi-conscious… I tried talking. I took her hand. It felt like holding a sack of warm Jello.
I fled.
Last year, a friend of a friend went into hospital, with what later turned out to be Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. I won’t attempt a medical description, but the effect is something like his brain turning into porridge.
His bed was empty. “He must have gone out for a walk,” said a nurse.
If he had gone outside the hospital, my chances of finding him were nil. But he might have gone to the little garden within the hospital complex.
Sure enough, there he was. We chatted briefly.

As I left, I wondered who benefits from such visits.
The patient? Carrying on a conversation with a visitor demands energy – precisely what the patient has least of.
I’ve not spent much time in hospital myself. On those occasions, though, I was always glad to see visitors. But I was also glad to see them go. They were tiring.
Fran Ota posted on FaceBook about visiting her sister, who has Alzheimer’s. They sang a song, took pictures, talked a little.
“Her attention span is tiny,” Fran mourned. “She’s verbal to some extent but it comes and goes. I was close to tears a couple of times; this is the hardest part of Alzheimer’s -- the person you love is still in there, but trapped. And fatigue sets in so quickly.”
Or is the benefit for the visitor? I can feel good about having made the effort. I can persuade myself I might have made a difference, even if I don’t know what it is.
Mostly, though, I feel helpless. I want to do something for the person I’m visiting. But often, I can’t. Except be there.
I might do something if the patient needed an advocate. But that role usually falls to a family member, not a casual acquaintance.
Visits have a scale of values. Personal visits rank highest. Followed by personal phone calls, chats on Zoom or Facetime. Then handwritten letters or cards. Emoticons on text messages rank near the bottom.
Being there matters more than bland assurances that they’re “in our thoughts and prayers.”
Perhaps hospital visits are like so many other things in life – we understand their value better if we imagine the opposite.
Hospital visits may be difficult for both parties. But they’re infinitely better than no visits at all.
Copyright © 2023 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca


Last week, I talked about the God-moments, and therefore the stories, we tell at the start of each worship service in our congregation.
I had commented, “When we tell stories, we reveal our own faith. It’s not necessarily perfect; it’s not necessarily even coherent. But it’s our story.”
“Lovely,” Isabel Gibson responded. “Of course, the Biblical stories aren't perfect or always consistent/coherent, but they are the story of their faith.
“And yes, stories in general are key to many things in life. Maybe we could add story-telling courses to our schools. I bet kids would remember things better when learned that way.”

Clare Neufeld contrasted the style of God-moments that I wrote about to the more aggressive testimonies he and his wife experienced when they moved to evangelical territory in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, some 30 years ago: “We found ourselves, (prairie semi-agri-folks), learning the unfamiliar-to-us language(s) and semantics of spirituality in the region, speaking of those ‘aha!’ moments of spiritual awareness, enlightenment, &/or surprise as our personal ‘God moments.’.
“This expression felt more gentle, even personally confessional, as opposed to ‘in your face’ aggressive Evangelical proclamations of imposed certainty.”

Fran Ota has been travelling, and just caught up with my groundhog column from two weeks ago. She noted that both in Edmonton (normally deep-frozen until April) and in Ontario, spring seemed to be close at hand. “I think the groundhogs can be dispensed with. Our climates have shifted enough that those foolish rituals are all but useless anyway.”

I had commented about Psalm 119 being loooonnnnng. Nenke Jongkind wrote, “We sang ALL of Psalm 119 in our Reformed Church in Meerkerk. Zuid Holland (South Holland province) in the Netherlands. I sat up front with my father so I could see everything in the organ loft, where the organist had had a heart attack. His daughter played the organ while the village doctor attended to his patient and six men created a [stretcher] to carry him home using two of his overcoats and broom handles through the sleeves.
“I was five or six. [It was] a never to be forgotten occasion.”


Psalm paraphrase

Psalm 2 is, in many ways, the second half of Psalm 1. Psalm 1 characterizes those who grow strong and tall in God’s presence; Psalm 2 offers a contrast.

What causes powerful people to plot together for their own profit?
They manipulate events to preserve their own privilege.
They try to take matters into their own hands;
They think they are greater than God.
But God laughs at their vanity.
They will see how fast their successes fade.
They will watch their foundations crack and their walls crumble.
Their empires will not last.
Their lofty edicts will be forgotten, their proclamations scorned.
The world they tried to weave will fall apart like rotted fabric.
But the reign of God goes on forever.
When the wicked ones have gone, who will inherit their wealth?
Only the poor and broken-hearted will be left.
Take heed, you who pursue power at any price!
Serve God, not your own ambitions.
Come to God in fear and trembling.
Learn God's ways,
before God puts you out with the garbage.
The orphans adopted into God's family will have the last laugh.

Update – there are still about 60 copies of my book of psalm paraphrases in stock at Wood Lake Publishing. The book includes paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary. So you can still order a print copy of Everyday Psalms from Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com, or 1-800-663-2775. But, I’m told, there will no further reprints.



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I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca
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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have blocked my posts because they’re suspicious of some of the web links.
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca He’s also relatively inexpensive!
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)

I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge. (Although maybe if I charged a fee, more people would find the archive worth visiting.)
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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Soft Edges


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