The Empathy of God

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. (John 11:33-35)

In John Chapter 11 we find Jesus traveling with the disciples, when he was notified that his friend Lazarus is extremely ill. Jesus, knowing God’s plan, purposefully delayed his plans to visit. He explicitly told the disciples his plan and even explained why he is waiting for Lazarus to die.

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”

As he gets closer to the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, Jesus explained his purpose to Martha. 

Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” . . . Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

As the reader, I am familiar with the incident and know the miracle that is about to take place. Jesus has explained it to his disciples, to Martha and to me. The narrative is interrupted, and I read how Jesus was overcome with emotion and crying, “he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed…Jesus wept.

I ask myself, “Why is Jesus crying? Why is he so upset? He knows the outcome. Jesus knows in a few short minutes, Lazarus will come walking out of the tomb, risen and alive again! How can Jesus, the son of God, omnipotent, omniscient be upset about a death he is going to rectify?”  I am confused by the incident until the Holy Spirit reveals the answer–empathy!

The Merriam-Webster definition of empathy includes… “vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” In other words, having the same “feelings, thoughts, and experience” of someone without having the same experience. 

Here in three short verses of John 11, I saw a facet of the heart of God. Our Lord and Savior reveals one of the most powerful emotions of humans—grief, sadness, and pain. Not because Jesus doesn’t know the outcome. And, not because He can’t fix it. Instead, He is overcome with the grief and pain of his friends’ who were inconsolable at the loss of their brother and friend. Jesus’ loving response is to share the experience with them. He cries as they cry.

As someone who has experienced loss and grief, I find comfort in knowing this is my God. He sat with me in my tears and pain. He cried when I was inconsolable. Not because He doesn’t know the outcome. And not because He couldn’t fix it. Instead, He is cries, when I cry.

Jesus becomes spiritually distressed by the pain and suffering we experience. He laments with me, with you and with our patients and families.  This new insight into the love of God brings new meaning to Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Debbie’s Touch

Today I realized, I am surrounded by Debbie’s. Or maybe I should say Debora’s, Deborah’s, Debra’s, Deb’s, and Debbie’s. Recently, I hired a new instructor whose name is Deborah. As I added her contact information into my phone – all these Debbie’s popped up. As I scrolled through them. I noticed how I am surrounded by Debbie’s.

There is Debora, whom I have been working with for a few years. As we have recently moved into leadership positions, we have become true “partners” in strategizing and co-leading the program. I see us becoming more than colleagues in the years to come.

The next was Debra who retired in 2016. Before her retirement, there were two Deb’s team-teaching the same class. Staff in my department and I would distinguish them by calling them Deb and Debra. There were quite a few years with our dynamic Deb team or Deb2.

In my writers’ group, there is a Debbie. I don’t know if her name is short for Deborah or Debora. I am assuming Deborah, the name from the Old Testament Judge found in the book with the same name. Deborah is my favorite spelling. For my little sister’s name was Deborah and we called her Debbie. Amazingly, Debbie, my writing pal, has the same warm, kind heart that my sister Debbie had. Maybe adding the “ie” to the name softens the heart and brings kindness.

Also included in my contact list, was long-time colleague and previous mentor Deb. She welcomed me into teaching and provided excellent guidance as I ventured into a new career.

I scrolled past another colleague, Deborah. She was my Spanish teacher for a semester. My lack of fluency in Spanish is in no way reflective of her teaching abilities. She has a vibrant personality and creative teaching style—esta excellente!

Speaking of excellent professors, I had the wonderful privilege of sharing a house with an ecology professor when I traveled to Haiti. Debbie not only provided a brief home-away-from home, she led a walking tour around the college campus. On the morning of my first day in Haiti, my personal tour included exotic birds, tropical flowers, and a cocoa tree along with other marvels of nature hidden on this marvelous exotic island.  Her tour is part of a student-work study program.  Debbie educates Haitians on how to share the knowledge of their wonderful island with others as a source of income.

The final Deb in my contact list is the name of a site visitor from an accreditation team member. Even though our time was brief, and she was officially evaluating the program, like other Deb’s she was warm and friendly.

And, of course, I still have my sister’s contact information. I look at her name, nestled among such amazing Deb’s, I know she is in good hands. Hands that touch my life through her namesake and continue to fill my life with her warm presence.

Memorializing Our Loved Ones

Brooke photo

Brooke’s Hiking Group Bracelets

I was chatting with a student when I noticed she had a pink bracelet. She went on to share with me that a dear friend of hers, Brooke, had just passed away. The student had made their hiking group bracelets and then went to Brooke’s favorite hiking spot–to pray, meditate, and remember her. The group photo shows the hiking group wearing their memorial bracelets.

I am always touched and blessed by the amazing ways people honor those their deceased loved ones. Whether the loved one is friend, family, or colleague those of us who miss them want to honor them and connect with them. I have been collecting various ways that is done. I think part of the reason, is I want to find a way to memorialize my sister.

 

My SISTER bracelet & cowboy boot charm

I have included a picture of my SISTER bracelet, that is the exact match of hers. I had purchased them many years ago. When Debbie passed away, I retrieved hers to keep. I still wear mine at times.  I also have been collecting charms that remind me of her.

 

She was cowgirl and loved her cowboy boots–so when I was looking at various charms–I had to have this one.

 

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Sticker placed in Rear Car Window

 

I hope you enjoy a few ways I have discovered. I included a thoughtful way to share your love and loss with others–a memorial sticker.

 

 

Feel free share ways you honor or memorialize your loved ones

Dash of Poetry for the Holiday

Tick, Tock,
I can hear the clock.
The calendar pages are ripping,
Day by day,
It comes.

Grave marker w/ xmas tree

Bright, lights
I can see the trees
The season is approaching
Gift by gift,
It comes.

Beat, Beat,
I can feel my heart
The anxiety is mounting
Step by step
It comes.

Grief, grief
I can feel my loss
The sorrow is drowning
Tear by tear
It comes.

Wait, stop
Reach for Him
The prayer is lifting
Moment by moment
It is here

 

*The holiday season can be a difficult time, especially after the death of a loved one. Reach out and get the care you need.  Here are links to my “go to sites.”

  • Kara specific for death of loved ones–all ages

The link includes “Holiday Survivorship Skills”

The link includes s/sx of grief, complicated grief, etc.

What does cinnamon candy & cheese slices have in common?

One thing about memories is you can’t control when they will pop into your mind. This is especially true for memories of our departed loved ones. A recent example illustrates this point. I love all kinds of cinnamon candy and the hotter the better.  I recently discovered that my husband loves them too, as he was eating two and three cinnamon breath mints at a time. WOW! That’s even too hot for me!

We were reminiscing about the different cinnamon candy and treats that were available when we were in high school—remember the cinnamon toothpicks! As we chatted about the hottest cinnamon candy and comparing the intensities of Jolly Ranchers to cinnamon bears, red hots and hot tamales, I remembered a funny event involving Debbie and I.

About 18 or so years ago my husband and I, with our two daughters drove back to Wyoming to visit my sister. We had pulled an all-nighter, peddle-to-the ground road trip driving straight through from California. We arrived at Debbie’s house at about 4 am and immediately crashed into bed.cinnamon jolly ranchers

When I woke up a few hours later, I went looking for my purse. I found it by the front door,where upon my exhausted arrival I had dropped it. Next to my purse was Debbie’s purse similar in style. Upon closer inspection both purses contained a bag of cinnamon Jolly Ranchers.  It was hilarious! Living so far apart and not being able to “spend time”together we were both amazed by our similar tastes in styles and snacks!

As I was learning about my husband’s love for cinnamon candy, this heart-warming memory surfaced. How sisters separated by years and miles, were seemingly genetically engineered to love cinnamon Jolly Ranchers. Even now, the memory brings a smile to my face.

The sliced cheese is an even older story that my mom loves to tell. When Debbie was about 2 years old, she loved those individually wrapped American cheese slices. Maybe love is not a strong enough word—she craved those little slices. One day, she walked over to the neighbors, politely knocked on their door and asked for a slice of cheese.  My mother had visited the neighbor in the past who had kindly given my sister a slice of cheese. Well, in a 2 year old’s mind, why not go back for more!

Both of these sweet memories of my sister came into my heart and mind this week; and I feel blessed. The main reason these are joyful memories is I am at a good place in my grief, so that missing her stirs happy moments. Thank you, Lord!

A Happy Birthday Letter!

Birthdays of our deceased loved ones can be difficult days. As a nurse, I have encouraged family members to plan on birthdays as “sucky” days. Now, that I am more than a casual observer or educated professional, planning can help, but it still sucks.  So what can we do? Well, one of the things I do is write my sister a letter. I mean literally a letter. For those of you who are younger than 30 or so, I take out a piece of paper (nothing fancy) and a cool pen (I am totally into pens!) and hand write a letter. No texting, no emails, no facebook postings–a letter that normally would go through the post office or snail mail. Sounds crazy and a bit sad, but I like it!

Part of the reason I like it, is that I feel like I am updating my sister on everything that is going on. I have read historical fiction/non-fiction books that include excerpts of a letter from a daughter who came out west in the 1800’s. Or letters from sons written during the Civil War.  The letters give such a real-life, first person account.

This is how I feel. I am reaching across the expanse of time and space to tell Debbie what is going on.  For example, this year’s birthday letter included a note about writing the memoir. I shared how I hoped she will like it and that it will honor her memory. I know, I know it sounds psycho! But, I don’t care. When I am writing this letter I feel like I am talking to her and she is close to me. Also, I don’t feel like she is missing events that are happening in our family’s life. I update her on how our parents are doing and what her sons are doing.  I also update her on our grief. How much I miss her and the problem my mom had choosing a headstone.

Once the letter is completed, I fold it up and put it in an envelope and mark it–Happy Birthday, 2014. I have also written a letter for Christmas and include a Christmas family photo.  In ten or twenty years from now, I envision opening the letters up and reading through all the life events she has missed.  It sounds heartbreaking and I am sure it will be; YET, it will be better to have a record of all I have shared with her. Instead of the alternative–which is ZIPPO–as if she wasn’t my sister anymore.

Dear Debbie,

Dear Debbie,

My Sister’s Green Chili continued

Well, I never did find the green chili powder, so my daughter and I gave the recipe a whirl without substitutions. I am glad we did.  The aroma of roasted pork fused with oregano and garlic with hints of green chilies wafted throughout the kitchen.  It was an amazing warm stew-type dish. A bowl of the hearty meat mixture went well with soft corn tortillas and queso fresco cheese.

When I had completed the cooking, the eating and was driving home with my share of the bounty; I felt disappointed. I had envisioned the experience as one of fun and laughter, like many family cooking adventures. I went into this project with the full knowledge that I was dancing around the grief process and could get burned.  Anyone in the grief process knows what I mean. You crack your heart open and start stirring the pot of feelings, memories, etc and you are going to get singed by the rawness.

As the emotional event percolated from my soul through my mind, I realized I was experiencing a letdown of sorts.  I couldn’t reinvent a day and experience my sister. Yes, I could take her favorite recipe and think about it and talk about her, but in the end she wasn’t here to cook with. In my memoir,  I call it “yearning”. We do things to connect with the person who is no longer here. For the first time since her death, I was more disappointing then soothing. In some ways, it made me feel sadder and even more aware of the emptiness that she once occupied.

The craziness of grief is I will probably keep doing things to feel close to her. Reminisce with my mom; talk with her kids, and other activities that bring her back into my life. No matter how disappointing or fleeting it may be.

Hand approaches hot burner

 

 

Pray4Me

prayer room in Taipai airport

Prayer Room in Taipai, Taiwan Airport

One of the most powerful and important things we do as humans is PRAY! I say humans for I have discovered that most people pray. Face it anytime we are facing devastating news, struggling with relationships, or diagnosed with an illness or disease, we pray! Prayer is especially important for Christians. It is the means in which we communicate with God. Not just to give him our to-do list, but he gives us his to-do list, as well.

Anyway, all this to say I want to pray for you!

  • I encourage you to submit a prayer request in one of the following ways:
    • you can add a comment to this blog
    • follow me @carriedameron #pray4me
    • Fill out the form below–and I will receive an email

Either way I will pray for you. Just a word about my prayers. I am a Christian, thus I will pray to God and use verses from the Bible as part of my prayers for you.

  • I have also created a category entitled “PRAYER” so if you want to learn more about prayer, especially as related to nursing or health care.

My Sister’s Green Chili

I am planning on cooking my sister’s famous Green Chili.  Let’s clarify, famous in regards to our family and friends; not famous as in tv show or cookbook.  At her grave site service which was less formal and with mostly family, everyone raved about Debbie’s green chili.  We were pleased when her husband distributed copies of the recipe.

I have fond memories of chatting with her on the phone, while she was busy cooking her green chili for her office Christmas party.  She would be cooking until 2 or 3 in the morning chopping and cooking.  Many things stand out in my mind about this memory. First, that she would be up all night cooking. I am not a late night person, like she was. I am the one who gets up at 4 in the morning to get a head start. Second, her secret ingredient is green chili powder. Even though I live in California, I am having a hard time finding it.

Cooking her green chili is going to be a challenge. The recipe is just list of ingredients no directions and lots of scribbles. My first challenge is to take what I have and somehow put it together. Maybe now is the time to confess. I have never had her green chili before. I have heard how great it was from our family and her friends.  But, have never actually tasted it. We would see each other maybe every year or two and our time together did not include cooking her chili. Instead we would have summer picnics and barbeques.

Another challenge is her tweaking. Debbie, had taken the recipe originally given to her by a neighbor and had been modifying parts of the recipe for the best results. Not that the original wasn’t outstanding, for I am sure it was. But, my sister and I are a family of tweakers. Not like meth users. Instead we take a recipe and say, “Hmm, let’s make changes. Spice it up a bit; add more onions and most definitely more garlic!”

My sister is not only a tweaker, but the recipe is technically in her head. Yes, many of us are guilty of having an outline of a recipe, but the true details and nuances stuck in the gray matter.  So here I am. I have most of the ingredients and the pork is cooking away. Tomorrow, I am going over to my daughter’s house. We both love to cook and I am anxious to see how Debbie’s famous green chili turns out. We have her scribbles with no clear directions of what to do after we shred the pork, but we will do our best. Check back and I will share with you the results.Soup image

NCFI Cares: The Shelter of the Most High

NCFI Cares: logo

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91

Psalm 91 is a song of trust and hope that guides us in understanding our God and the protection he provides. It is not a guarantee that nothing bad will happen to us. Instead it is, as one bible scholar states “no fear and no fall”. This spiritual covering is a protection from the elements outside the Lord’s hand. We do not have to be afraid of what comes our way in this life.

Our God is the Almighty, the Supreme Being and Ruler of everything on earth and in heaven (1 Chronicles 29:11-13). And we have a choice to dwell with Him. Not just a onetime choice at salvation, but a daily surrender to the Most High. This choice brings the assurance of abiding with the Lord (1 John 4:15).Yes, pain and suffering may befall us, but we rest in the confidence that our Lord is in control and we can rest in the shadow of his presence.

During recent personal events, the Lord opened my heart to the wisdom and blessing of His security with Psalm 91. As the Lord continues to encourage me, I will encourage you with the strength and assurance each verse provides. My prayer is that His blessing will spill over to your colleagues, patients and family; for truly our cup runs over (Psalm 23:5).