Only the grieving know true cost of war
I can hardly attend a Memorial Day service without remembering the true cost of war. It is a cost I’ve counted during my visits to more than 30 community homes as part of a death notification team delivering news no one wants to hear.
When most people imagine these notification teams, they see them through the lens of their own social experience. They invent a three-bedroom house where Mom is making dinner and Dad is helping a younger sibling with homework... Read on...
Unexpected death brings lessons for living
In the aftermath of most tragedies, like the bombing of the Boston Marathon, civil authorities will often focus on improving the safety of future public events.
As a parent and grandparent, I will applaud these efforts — to a point.
I have always been a safety advocate. I raised my children with such an awareness of safety that they called me the “safety officer.&rd... Read on...
It's OK to pray for animals
As a VA hospital chaplain, I begin most weekday mornings by visiting patients with critical diagnoses such as cancer, cardiac problems or liver failure. However, a nurse recently stopped me outside a patient’s room with a critical prayer request of her own.
“Do you pray for animals?” she asked.
My eyes swirled with hesitant patterns. I couldn’t help but think of my dog, Toby. He&rsquo... Read on...
Sometimes silence can speak volumes
If you’ve experienced a major loss in your life, you’ve probably had people say to you, “I’m so sorry. I just don’t know what to say.”
So why is it that they somehow manage to open their mouths anyway?
Years ago, I was walking past the glass-enclosed surgical waiting room in the Houston hospital where I served as the chaplain. I stopped when my eye caught a surgical nurse w... Read on...
Don't assume that I make assumptions
When people ask me what the most important lesson I’ve learned from hospital chaplaincy, I say, “Don’t assume.”
The advice encompasses all walks of life, but in the hospital, there are three specific things I try not to assume: relationships, my own ability to comfort, and personal beliefs.
First, I’ve discovered that it’s best not to assume relationships. That’s why ... Read on...
Trouble, forgiveness comes in threes
Twenty-seven years ago, I was a newly minted Air Force chaplain when I asked my mentor, Chaplain Major Ron Kelling, to name the top three ways chaplains get in trouble.
Kelling, a former Vietnam War fighter pilot, had no trouble squeezing out a rapid-fire answer.
“It’s either money or women!”
He mentioned money because military chaplains ... Read on...
Faith helps chaplain to finish line
Today’s column might as well be scripted in the voice of the old-time melodramatic narrators who often began, “When we last saw our hero….” because if you read last week’s column, you’ll be amazed to hear that I’m still alive.
When we last saw our hero, Chaplain Norris, he’d registered to run the California International Marathon with almost 9,300 runners. However, on race day last week, only 6,474 runners braved ... Read on...
Offer sympathy the only way you can
Editor’s note: I am writing a memoir about my experiences as the chaplain at the Air Force Field Hospital in Balad Iraq in 2009. The following excerpt is about my encounter with a boy whose Iraqi father brought him to us with third degree burns over fifty percent of his body. _______________________
“This is Hakeem,” the IC... Read on...
Look closely, the miracle often is not-so-obvious at first glance
In the mid 1990s, I was working for Houston Northwest Medical Center when I got a call from our ICU nurse manager, Grace Heffron.
“Chaplain, what are you doing at 2 p.m.?’’ she asked in a tone that fell short of the quality for which she was named.
“We have an end-of-life conference with a family. Can you make it?”
Frustrated over the lengthy use of ICU beds, Grace called the conference to discuss continuing lif... Read on...
Oh, what a night: God's own sky show
If you follow my column, you know that I’m pretty starry-eyed about my wife, but I also get starry-eyed about God’s world, too. And last week, I got the chance to combine both loves.
I finished seven lonely weeks of temporary duty with the 152nd Intelligence Squadron in Reno, Nev., when I decided to invite my wife to join me for Reno’s famous Hot August Nights, the largest classic car event in the U.S.
I... Read on...