Cat carrier

I want one!!!


2016 passim

On New Years Eve, 1964, when I was 6, I remember crying my eyes out to my mother because I didn’t want 1964 to end since it was such a good year for little me.  Years later, I cannot wait for 2016 to end.  Sure, there were a few bright spots, but for most of the year it simply sucked.

I don’t remember 6 weeks of it.  I started the year quite ill, in hospice care.  Sometime in April I became sick enough that I was placed into a skilled nursing facility.  My family was told that I had “a week, tops” before I would die.  I woke up near the end of May in Bishop Spencer Place, a retirement/skilled nursing/intermediate care facility affiliated with our diocese.  Back in 2002, before ordination, I did my field work assignment/chaplaincy training at BSP.  It’s a huge facility covering an entire city block in midtown KC about a half mile west of Saint Luke’s Hospital.  It proved to be a wonderful place for me to heal.

The staff addressed me as “Mr. Egger” but none of the staff ever introduced themselves to me by name for the whole time I was there.  I noticed a hierarchy of races in the facility.  Most of the RNs were White or Black, (as were the nursing assistants,) the LPNs were Black, and the housekeepers were Hispanic. Two of my favorite nursing assistants on night were Pakistani women, and I miss them. The work they did was amazing.  As an RN I knew how helpful a good LPN could be, and the LPNs at BSP were more than good. 🙂

Wake up time for me was usually 0530, to take an early morning med.  Breakfast was at 0700, lunch was 1100 and supper was 1600.  Lights out at 2100.  I was dismissed from BSP in late September and I’m still working on adjusting my times.  Usually I struggle to stay awake until 2200 and still wake up at around 0330, but I’m finally sleeping in until 0800.

There wasn’t much for me to do there except read or watch television in my room, which I shared with a man who watched Fox News 24/7.  The facility is constructed in a semicircle.  The nursing station was in the middle, a large room, with three hallways extending outward with rooms.  Most of the hallways had at least 60 residents.  One was for skilled nursing, one was for rehab, and my hallway which was for those with lesser needs.  I noticed that there were “regulars” who sat in the room that was the nursing station.  I found an open chair and it became my perch, where I could watch the nurses and residents interact, or spend my time reading.  My sister took me out for Saturdays away from ‘the home,’ as I called it.  BSP was within walking distance of a Half-Price Bookstore, and we’d go there or stop to shop for me.  (We could keep food in our rooms.)  It was so good to get out of the home and see the ‘real world’ of Midtown KC.  There was also a really nice Sun Fresh Market within walking distance.  The city traffic prevented actually walking to the market.

One of the treats of being out with sissie was lunch.  Midtown is full of some wonderful restaurants.  My Yelp account suggested some really good eats for us.  Jerusalem Cafe serves really good Middle Eastern food.  There were several pizza places we ate at, too.

I didn’t get too many visitors.  My bishop stopped by.  Dawn and Becca visited. My kids were in town several times.  Some clergy friends visited.  I became good friends with the spouses of two of the residents; they were surviving clergy spouses.  I found out that there was a group of retired clergy that met in the chapel for Morning Prayer every Thursday.  This became an oasis for me.  I knew all the retired clergy who participated.  Deacon Leslie lived in my hall, too, and she often visited for MP.  I hear she’s in hospice now, and I pray for her every day.

In August my granddaughter Gila Rae Afton was born.  She’s an amazing little one and is growing and learning more with each passing day.  She’s changed Annie and Ben’s life forever and they are great parents.

We adopted Becca Tish this past year; another bright blessing.  She’s an adult, and we found out that adult adoptions are legal in Missouri.  She calls her birth parents “egg donor and sperm donor.”  It’s pretty cool looking at her new birth certificate with OUR names (Tishie and me) on it as mother and father.  Becca has lots of health issues, but she’s putting on weight and become much more assertive.

Other than a head cold that won’t go away, my health has been getting better since I returned home.  Thanks to two new meds I can take a 7 minute shower without getting short of air.  That’s *huge* for me since my lungs have always been my nemesis.  I’ve been on a plateau for two months.  Sometimes I worry about dropping the other shoe, yet this extended plateau is a blessing.

I’ve also renewed my friendship with my New Living Testament (NLT) study bible.  It’s a brilliant translation and my nose is in it perhaps too often.  My day is woven with reading, prayer, and playing fetch (yes) with our 6 month old kitten, Luna.

In passing; a reflection on Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
    Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
    Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

As Christ hang suffering on the cross, he cried to heaven with these words.  Christ was a rabbi and the words to this psalm were familiar to him.  I wince at the thought of Christ reciting this long psalm as he hung on the wooden cross.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Our ancestors trusted in you,
    and you rescued them.
They cried out to you and were saved.
    They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

A crisp, cool autumn weekend in 1987.  I drove to work that night hoping it would be a quiet weekend for my crew in the Progressive Care Unit.  We pulled a three night schedule every other weekend and they could be long suffering ordeals.  One of our ‘frequent fliers’ was someone I’ll call Ed, and he was in for what we called ‘tune-ups’.  He was admitted for blood transfusions.  He had an oat cell cancer in his chest.  They say that OCCA grows at such a speed that you can watch it grow under a microscope.  Ed would get three units of blood that night and be dismissed to home on Saturday morning.

But I am a worm and not a man.
    I am scorned and despised by all!
Everyone who sees me mocks me.
    They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
“Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
    Then let the Lord save him!
If the Lord loves him so much,
    let the Lord rescue him!”

No one can imagine the pain Christ felt.  Spikes through his wrists, his body weight hanging from them.  Constant, aching, insufferable pain.

Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
    and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
    You have been my God from the moment I was born.

Ed was dismissed as planned and my coworker Nancy and I had a quiet Saturday night.  We returned to work on Sunday evening.  Ed had been readmitted because he started coughing up blood Sunday afternoon.  I was his nurse.  Ed was on his second of three units of blood–packed red blood cells–the good stuff left after the plasma is separated in the blood bank.  Ed was pale as a sheet, his admitting hemoglobin was 5, close to bleeding to death.  I took his vitals and made small talk.  I noticed he was reading his bible.  I asked him what he was reading.  “Oh, the psalms.  They solve all my problems.”

Do not stay so far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and no one else can help me.
My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
    fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
Like lions they open their jaws against me,
    roaring and tearing into their prey.

Death by crucifixion is slow and painful.  The crucified usually die from suffocation.  It’s difficult to breathe when your muscles are cramping, especially the intercostal muscles between each rib, front and back.  To die more quickly it was Roman custom to break the leg bones of the crucified.

My life is poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
    melting within me.
My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
    My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
    You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.

At around 2100 Sunday night I started the third and final PRBC transfusion for Ed.  He asked that the commode be placed closer.  I did so, with the caveat that he call me first before getting out of bed.

My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
    an evil gang closes in on me.
    They have pierced[a] my hands and feet.
I can count all my bones.
    My enemies stare at me and gloat.
They divide my garments among themselves
    and throw dice[b] for my clothing.

O Lord, do not stay far away!
    You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!

Christ’s legs were not broken as he was already in extremis…close to death, short gasping breaths.  A centurion pierced his side and water and blood issued forth.

Save me from the sword;
    spare my precious life from these dogs.
Snatch me from the lion’s jaws
    and from the horns of these wild oxen.

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.[c]
    I will praise you among your assembled people.
Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
    Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
    Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!

I was sitting at the nursing station watching the telemetry monitors and Ed called for me.  It sounded like he was talking under water.  I entered his room to find him in an agonal rhythm, sitting in bed, his mouth open and blood pouring out from his mouth, collecting into a catch basin.  He looked at me with a thousand yard stare, sighed and stopped breathing.  I shut his monitors off and called for Nancy.  She had the chief resident come to the unit ASAP.

For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
    He has not turned his back on them,
    but has listened to their cries for help.

I will praise you in the great assembly.
    I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
The poor will eat and be satisfied.
    All who seek the Lord will praise him.
    Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.

Slowly removed off the cross by his followers, Christ was taken to a rich man’s home and placed in a grave cave.

The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him.
    All the families of the nations will bow down before him.
For royal power belongs to the Lord.
    He rules all the nations.

Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
    Bow before him, all who are mortal,
    all whose lives will end as dust.

Nancy and I were both shaken badly by Ed’s death.  The resident assured us that there was nothing we could have done to save Ed.  The OCCA had eaten through his pulmonary arteries and he was dead in seconds.  The basin was full of clotted blood, about 4 litres in total.

Our children will also serve him.
    Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
    They will hear about everything he has done.

After we cleaned Ed up we took him to the morgue.  As I cleaned his room, I noticed the bible he was reading, set aside on the bedside stand.  It was opened to Psalm 22 and marked with Ed’s bloody finger prints.

Early Monday Morning

My sleep cycles get almost back to normal [whatever that means] and *WHUMP* I find myself wide awake at 0400.  This does not make my happy.  Do I go back to bed and try to sleep?  Do I read something and hope I can fall asleep?  Do I stay up, make some Earl Grey and milk, or ride this out and hope for the best later today?

Dawn and I have both been feeling under the weather during this past weekend.  Both of us have been lazy and slummin’ in our jammies.  My sister and I missed our usual Saturday outing.  We ‘re both set in our ways, sissie and I, and missing our Saturday lunch has ‘confusilated’ (Eggerhaus vernacular) both of us.

As a Native American through marriage, I’ve been watching the events at Standing Rock unfold with much interest.  The recent Army Corps of Engineers decision leaves me waiting for the other shoe to drop. There’s no trusting the government or the BIA in all of this.  I get “my” news from and; Dawn is a lifetime member of AIM.  The fat lady hasn’t started singing at Standing Rock yet.  I’m sure once Trump is in office all sorts of shit is going to hit the fan.  The support from the Veterans’ group has been awesome.  One white soldier was quoted as saying  (sic) “I took an oath when I went into the Army, and that oath doesn’t have an expiration date.”

Six years ago my mother died on Christmas morning; Christmas is difficult for me now, but each year I feel less sad.  I have gift cards for a few in my family, and hope to find something for Gila Rae when sissie and I go out this coming Saturday.  I’m missing mom more this year (stop overthinking, dammit).  Maybe it has something to do with my granddaughter having her first Christmas.  Gila Rae is very lucky…she comes from a long line of Really Strong Women, and she’s going to make her mark known in the world.  I won’t be around when that comes to fruition, but it’s great to look at her, cooing and crying and bubbling and burping and sighing and smiling, and wonder what God has in store for her.

I finally have an Epistle and a Gospel reading chosen for my funeral.  The Epistle is from 2 Corinthians 4: “We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.  So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.  But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.  All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (NLT)

My Gospel selection is from John 14: “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.  Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am.  I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.  “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.” (NLT)

Long lessons?  yup  Good for a funeral?  yup…for my funeral.  Now, I need to look at the music.  I have some plans for the music.  It’ll be an interesting funeral for sure.

If you haven’t noticed, Earl Grey won. 🙂

A rough weekend, except for church.

I called my osteopath’s office on Friday to have my regular dose of slow release morphine reordered.  Because it’s a narcotic, the office can’t call the pharmacist with a refill.  It has to be a hard copy, and I hand deliver it to the pharmacy.

Sadly, I didn’t look at the script before dropping it off.  The reorder was not for the slow release morphine.  It was for my roxinal, the liquid morphine I take if the slow release isn’t giving me good relief.  I’m living on the roxinal now, taking it every hour or so to keep my pain at a minimum.  Morphine withdrawal is not fun, and I hope to keep it under control through tonight and into tomorrow.  I will call my DO’s office in the morning to get the proper prescription filled.

On another note, there are no words to express how I feel about Grace Episcopal Church.  I’ve never ‘claimed’ membership to the churches that I’ve been assigned to serve.  Grace is doing everything right. 🙂  Dawn, Becca, and I live for Sunday mornings now.  I feel connected there.  My health has been on a steady plateau and I feel much better than I have in a long time.  Grace has excellent child and adult ed, good preaching, good choir, good outreach, and I feel loved there.  I’ve been thinking and praying about how I can contribute at Grace as we enter 2017.  I love to preach, and miss doing so.  (Preaching isn’t the usual role of a deacon in the Episcopal Church.)  I’m passionate about bible study; my nose is in my bible throughout the day and sometimes at night, too.

My mother died on Christmas morning in 2010.  She had been ill for a while and after being admitted to the ICU she became semi-comatose.  I wrote this reflection; rereading it is the only way I can make sense of her being in heaven:

The Deacon’s Bench

Christmastide, 2010

My friends in Christ,

Today is Wednesday, December 22, 2010.  A Service of Lessons and Carols begins in half an hour.  Sadly, I won’t be there.  Thanks to the marvels of modern wifi communication, I’m writing this from my mom’s bedside in the ICU at Saint Mary’s Med Center in Blue Springs.  My mom is dying.

Mom’s had a rough year. A slow, steady, less-than-gentle decline in her health.  Oh, she’s an ornery, stubborn fighter, for sure. But she’s worn out.  Tired.  My mom is dying.

For many years I worked 12-hour nights as an RN in a Medical ICU.  I’ve ministered to many dying patients and helped ease them, and their loved ones, through this Thin Place we call death.  It was never easy, but it needed to be done.  I hope and pray I was an effective nurse, but my nursing pales in comparison to the kind and loving and caring the RNs and PCAs at Saint Mary’s deliver.  Stealing a line from Willie Nelson, the nurses here are angels…flying too close to the ground.  My mom is dying.

She’s comfortable.  Minimally responsive.  Her vitals are OK, but the nurse in me knows that she will die.  The deacon in me anointed her earlier.  The son in me had a long talk with his mom and told her that she had my permission to go home any time she wanted.  I see it, but I don’t believe it.  My mom is dying.

I’m selfish.  I love my mom.  I don’t want her to die today because four years ago today I asked Dawn Tish to marry me.  Tonight I told mom how anxious Dawn was when they first met.  Dawn wanted to be accepted.  Dawn knows my mom told her she loves her, but doubt lingers.  Looking at Mom, covered with the shawl Dawn knitted for her this Christmas, I think Mom knows that shawl was knitted with love and prayers.  I didn’t like the yarn when Dawn bought it, but as usual I was wrong…it’s a beautiful splash of pastel colors and Mom would love it.  My mom is dying.

If my mom dies before Christmas Eve, I will be at Trinity for the services.  This ornery deacon needs to be with the people who’ve accepted him and his wife…people I’ve grown to know and love and minister to and pray for.  I need to be there for another reason.  A child is born.

The Prophet Isaiah proclaims: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

My friends in Christ, my mom is dying…but a child is born.  Maybe her dying at Christmastide isn’t so bad, you know?  Her leaving, the child coming.   My faith tells me this:  They’ll meet in that Thin Place.

I love you all,

Deacon Jon

Having had both of my parents die, I still ponder how their deaths were so different and how different my reaction to their dying have been.  Mom, for whatever reason, took time to die.  I think it took time for her to die because she had lots of inner work to do.  She held grudges,she could be angry, and struggled with forgiveness.  Dad was alive in one moment and literally was dead before he sat on the floor when his AAA burst.  I was ready for mom to die and mourning her has been so easy.  I still struggle with my dad’s dying.  I was much closer to him and still have times of gut-wrenching grief when I think about him.

When I was in Nursing 101 so long ago I remember what the director of the nursing program told us.  “If you drop out or graduate, you will learn three lessons:  Life isn’t easy, life isn’t fair, and people die.”  Heady, hard lessons for sure.

Post Thanksgiving

I’ve been fighting my sleep issues for about a month.  I go to bed, tired feeling, at 2100, but wake up {wide awake} at 0330.  I think it’s best that I try to stay up until midnight, which should give me a wake up time of 0700.  Sadly, I don’t think this will work.  It’s difficult staying up until midnight.  Thank you, God, for benadryl. 🙂

Thanksgiving 2016

The year of 2016 has sucked for me and for others that I know and love.  I’m reminded of what “Red Emma” Goldman said: “Voting is the opiate of the people; every four years it deadens the pain.”   I’m not as much of an anarchist as Emma was, but this was on my mind when I stood in the 90 minute line to vote a few weeks ago.  In my readings since then, I’m buoyed by something James Baldwin wrote: “One must say yes to life, and embrace it wherever it is found and it is found in terrible places. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we cease to love one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”  Heady, powerful words, but they need to be said out loud and often.

One surprise in my life began on Monday when I saw my pulmo doc, a lung man if there ever was one. The simple act of adding two medications to my regimen has changed my lungs in ways I could never imagine.  No shortness of air dressing, none when showering, none when I get up off my dead ass (as my father would say) and do something other than just sitting there.

On a sad note, a longtime friend, Stan Nevis, died.  He was Jewish, married to a colleague, Deacon Nancy Nevins.  Stan called himself a ‘Jewpalian’ and I will miss him greatly.  He was always ready with a quip or pun or really good story.  Heaven has gotten an amazing soul and I’m sure he’s still greeting the newcomers as their souls clock-in for eternity.

My happiness came twice this year, first when Annie and Ben had a baby girl, Gila Rae Afton.  She has Ben’s eyes and Annie’s feet, which came down my line of DNA…prehensile toes with a death grip.  I’ll see her on Saturday and can’t wait.  My second happiness was when Dawn and I legally adopted Becca Tish.  She has been our joy and she is holding down a job and recently found a young man at work who is now her boyfriend.

Life is what you make of it.  I lost a part of my life that I will never get back when I was very ill this past spring.  I have no memory of anything that happened.  I had an eye exam I don’t remember, but the prescription is the best I’ve ever had.  My first memory is waking up in Bishop Spencer Place with no memories of the previous six weeks.  If felt like I got a second chance at this thing we call life.  So maybe it wasn’t as bad a year as it could have been.  Lessons not learned are retaught.

Many of our blessings come hiding in plain sight.  All we have to do is open our eyes to see them and offer thanks to God for them.

My spiritual life is very important to me.  In this upcoming Advent I will be praying and inwardly digesting my favorite Psalm, number 145.  This psalm has always spoken to me and I turn to it often in my walk with God.  I’ll close with it, NLT version.  Ignore the verse numbers. (mea culpa)

I will exalt you, my God and King,
    and praise your name forever and ever.
I will praise you every day;
    yes, I will praise you forever.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
    No one can measure his greatness.

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
    let them proclaim your power.
I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
    and your wonderful miracles.
Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
    I will proclaim your greatness.
Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness;
    they will sing with joy about your righteousness.

The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
The Lord is good to everyone.
    He showers compassion on all his creation.
10 All of your works will thank you, Lord,
    and your faithful followers will praise you.
11 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom;
    they will give examples of your power.
12 They will tell about your mighty deeds
    and about the majesty and glory of your reign.
13 For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
    You rule throughout all generations.

The Lord always keeps his promises;
    he is gracious in all he does.[b]
14 The Lord helps the fallen
    and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
15 The eyes of all look to you in hope;
    you give them their food as they need it.
16 When you open your hand,
    you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
    he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He grants the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
20 The Lord protects all those who love him,
    but he destroys the wicked.

21 I will praise the Lord,
    and may everyone on earth bless his holy name
    forever and ever.