Compassionate, informed advice about healthcare decision making

Archive for July, 2022

More Nothing than Something — True Solace is Finding None

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I was such a scaredy-cat at 8 years old. All I can remember of two particular movies in 1956 was that I kept my eyes closed during the entirety of each film. I have just discovered, through Wikipedia, that Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers and The Werewolf were released together as a double feature that summer. Who knew?

Bingo. Those were the two movies of my childhood fears. I was sitting through 160+ minutes of terror.

From my youth, outer space and the heavens brought a recuring sense of awe. Yes, the fear of flying saucers invading was real. But, there was also a sense of reverence as I gazed into the night sky. I was pretty small in the vastness of the stars above.

I just placed the latest “deep field” photo from the new James Webb Space Telescope to my home screen on my iPhone. This is a time exposure photo of a portion of the night sky the size of a grain of sand held at arms-length. Thousands of galaxies appear as we look back billions of years. Each galaxy has billions of stars — each star is not unlike our sun.

We come out of childhood, hopefully, putting away childhood fears. We gain a sense of control of our own lives. I am somebody. That is, until….

That is, until something reminds of how small we really are — how we really are not in control. Serious illness ranks up there with things that shake us to our core.

The Deep Field photo brings so many thoughts to my mind. What is really amazing is that there is more of nothing than there is of something. More empty space than stars. Perhaps “nothingness” is more important than “something.”

Even down at the microscopic level, scientists tell us that the is more empty space in each atom than solid matter. Doesn’t make sense when you fall on asphalt after a spill off your bike, but, I have to take the experts at their word.

The point is that emptiness and nothingness are where we live. Yes, I am glad I have family, friends, community, and this beautiful earth to enjoy. But, I also feel at home in the vastness of empty space or the silence which is a space empty of sound.

It is the message of the mystics and the dying have been telling us since the dawn of time. I am reminded of Gretel Ehrlich’s comment, “True solace is finding none. Then, of course, it is everywhere.”

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Chaplain Hank Dunn is the author of Hard Choices for Loving People: CPR, Feeding Tubes, Palliative Care, Comfort Measures and the Patient with a Serious Illness and Light in the Shadows. Together they have sold over 4 million copies. You can purchase his books at hankdunn.com or on Amazon.

“During covid… I think that was my favorite time in life”

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Imagine my surprise at getting a text from my youngest daughter, Katie, that started and ended this way: “During COVID… I think that was my favorite time in life.” Of course, it was everything in between that beginning and ending that tells the story.

Most of Generation Z spent their last year of college (2020-21) attending class in front of a computer screen. Katie was included in that cohort. It was our good fortune, in 2019, to have moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where she was going to school. Although she shared a townhouse with some friends, she and Charlie, her Cavalier Spaniel,spent a great deal of time in our home.

My wife and I tend to be news junkies. Each evening we record the ABC World News Tonight and the PBS NewsHour. And, each evening, we watch both, mercifully skipping the commercials. Katie did not share our news addiction and turned us on to a “new drug” — Grey’s Anatomy.

Thanks to COVID, we were not going out, so it was a binge of 17 seasons and close to 400 episodes. We took a pass on our basketball and baseball season tickets and went to med school. Twice, late in 2020, I blogged about Grey’sGrey’s Anatomy and CPR on Television” and “The Spiritual Side of Grey’s Anatomy.”

I started that first blog, “True confession: I have joined my 22-year-old daughter in binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy during the pandemic. Over 300 episodes viewed and counting. I now know about ‘10-blade,’ ‘clear!’ and the importance of declaring ‘time of death.’ Also, I never knew there was so much romance and sex going on in hospital supply closets and on-call sleeping rooms. Now I know.”

Last week, out of the blue, Katie texted us, “During covid when we watched every season of Grey’s Anatomy and you both didn’t fall asleep and paid attention I think that was my favorite time in life.” (I will not comment on the falling asleep or paying attention part, but I really did enjoy the series.)

I know, for many people, the pandemic was horrible. People died. People were exhausted. There was NO silver lining for them. To be clear, Katie did not qualify the family-watching-Grey’s as the best thing about COVID. She was more expansive — watching Grey’s with us was her “favorite time in life.”

Regardless, I’m grateful we got to make the best of a bad situation. We salvaged some uninterrupted family time and made memories with our daughter. Binge-watching TV was the silver lining of the pandemic. At least, it was for us.

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Chaplain Hank Dunn is the author of Hard Choices for Loving People: CPR, Feeding Tubes, Palliative Care, Comfort Measures and the Patient with a Serious Illness and Light in the Shadows. Together they have sold over 4 million copies. You can purchase his books at hankdunn.com or on Amazon.

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