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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Raw Honesty & Faith

My Dad’s 5-hour surgery went well on Friday, as far as his pancreas and gallbladder are concerned, but he is not responding to any stimuli – he is not squeezing the doctor’s hand when he is asked to do so, and he is not recognizing Mother when he looks at her. There is a strong possibility that he may have sustained brain damage during the episode two weeks ago when his heart and breathing stopped. The doctors will be unable to do a brain scan until he is off the ventilator (they will be trying to wean him off the ventilator over the coming week). Right now the prognosis is uncertain.

On Friday I got to spend some time alone with him before his surgery. He was heavily sedated and unable to talk with all the tubes in his mouth and nose, but I know he recognized me. I told him he was surrounded by love, by people who love him and who are praying for him – over 80 people were praying for him from Facebook alone – and he nodded his head. When I prayed for him out loud (the Prayer for Quiet Confidence from the Book of Common Prayer, followed by a very emotional prayer for his healing) and concluded “Amen,” he moved his lips in a silent Amen. Then he visibly relaxed, as if he were taking a rest from all the wrestling-with-the-angels he has been doing over the past month.

It hurts like hell to see Dad in this condition, or to even think about a sharp-witted aircraft design engineer who can’t recognize his own family. The idea of a Lloyd Grizzle who may be brain-damaged scares the shit out of me. The only prayer I can pray today is the memorized prayer below, and I’m almost able (not quite) to believe it. So in addition to prayer for my Dad I am asking that you pray for my own faith, which lies buried deep inside a trash-heap of fear and doubt right now.

I realize that kind of honesty is disturbing to some people. I’m afraid I shocked a friend last week when I told him on the phone, in a moment of raw pain, that “I don’t know if I believe in God anymore or if it’s all a bunch of bullshit.” He sent me a very warm and thoughtful message in response, part of which said:

“I admire the fact that in your life Darrell you do so much to help people but at the same time wonder why it’s so hard [for you] to find that same strength in yourself. ...It’s just with someone who does so much good for others (and I don’t think you know how much good you do). It’s hard when I see them unable to give that same attention to themselves.”

I thought all week about what my friend had written, and I’ve realized that I can’t always help myself the way I might be able to help others. I can’t be my own therapist, and I can’t be my own pastor. This is why I need community, which thankfully I have. I need friends and loved ones to pray for me when I am unable to pray for myself. I need friends and loved ones to have faith for me when I have trouble finding faith for myself.

This perhaps is the greatest gift I’ve received from this whole ordeal: the humbling awareness that I can’t go through this alone. And I don’t have to. I don’t have to be a spiritual superhero. Jesus talked about being present “where two are more are gathered” in his name. Sometimes it’s just not possible to have faith by oneself. Sometimes it takes “two or more.” Community. “The communion of saints.”

So to those of you who continue to stand with me in prayer, I truly thank you. In a very real way, you are making this difficult journey much easier to bear.

with much love and gratefulness,
Darrell

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Prayer for Quiet Confidence, from The Book of Common Prayer

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Good News (Finally)

My dad, Lloyd Grizzle, is still in the ICU but today there are finally a few things to be optimistic about:

  • Dad's kidneys are functioning on their own again, and he was taken off dialysis today.
  • The IV antibiotics are working well against the MRSA infection he contracted last Friday.
  • His surgeon is confident that Dad will be able to have the surgery he needs (to remove the two gallstones that got lodged in his pancreas, and also to remove the parts of the pancreas that have necrotized). The doctor has scheduled the surgery for this Friday, August 29, at 10 AM.
After his cardiac emergency last Sunday, and his contracting of MRSA this past Friday, it is great to finally have some good news and an optimistic prognosis.

with gratefulness to all of you for your continued prayers ~
Darrell


For you alone, O Lord, my soul in silence waits...

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Cardiac Emergency

Update, August 24th: My dad now has MRSA in addition to his other problems: acute pancreatitis, respiratory failure, kidney problems. He is still connected to a respirator and is now connected to dialysis as well.

My father, who is still in the ICU at Atlanta Medical Center, had a cardiac emergency on Sunday, August 17th. His breathing and his heart stopped for over a minute and it took the doctors over 5 minutes to fully resuscitate him. The doctors do not yet know if he sustained any brain damage during the episode. He is hooked up to a ventilator and is sedated so that he can rest. This is a major setback, and at this point we don’t know if or when he will be able to have the surgeries he needs on his pancreas and gall bladder.

Dad’s body is swollen all over from the fluids that have built up. His feet look like balloons. It is incredibly difficult to see him in this condition – connected to machines, unable to communicate – especially after he was so lucid and so talkative during our conversation on Wednesday.

It is also difficult to see the effect this is having on my mother. When Pastor Paul came to the ICU waiting room about 30 minutes after the emergency episode, my mother rushed over to him and hugged him and began crying, “I’m not ready for him to die.”

Please continue to hold Lloyd Grizzle and my family in your prayers.

with much love and gratefulness,
Darrell
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Irrational Flashes of Grace

I got to spend several hours alone with my dad, Lloyd Grizzle, in his hospital room yesterday. He is still in a lot of pain, at yet another hospital – the 4th – to which he was transferred late Tuesday night. The inflammation of his pancreas has worsened, and he was transferred to Atlanta Medical Center in hopes that he could have the surgeries he needs within the next day or two. A CT scan yesterday, however, shows that his pancreas is still too inflamed for the doctors to operate safely. It seems like a cruel Catch 22: he needs the surgery (removing a gall stone that has become lodged in a duct) to relieve the inflammation, but he has too much inflammation to have the surgery.

It was nice to be able to sit by Dad’s bedside, just him and me. He is still hooked up to an oxygen tube, so it’s not very easy for him to talk. But he talked with me at length about the two unpublished novels he has written – I knew about one, a historical novel set in the 1800’s, and I had read parts of it, but I thought the other one was just a short story, not a novel. He asked me to download them from his computer next time I give Mother a ride to the hospital from their home in Jasper. The second novel appears to be a semi-autobiographical story about a young boy growing up in the 1950’s, dealing with the traumatic divorce of his parents. There are three angelic beings in the story, visible only to the main character. The three angelic beings represent benevolence, malevolence, and Light (divine wisdom). My dad wants to know if I think the angelic characters should be taken out, leaving only the human ones.

I haven’t read the novel yet, but I really like the idea of the angelic characters. I’ve written here before about feeling “irrational flashes of anger” during the past month my dad has been in the hospital (and I still experience those), but I’m also feeling “irrational flashes of grace.” I felt one yesterday, after my dad was wheeled off to have the CT scan. Riding down the elevator to get something to eat (this new hospital has a Chick-fil-A and a Starbucks), I felt the overwhelming sense that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, All Will Be Well. No matter what happens, the hand of Providence – perhaps the benevolent angel my dad wrote about – is present and active. It was an amazing sense of peace and grace.

I’d had another “irrational flash of grace” this past Sunday morning at Gentle Spirit Christian Church, as Pastor Paul was preaching on the Gospel passage about Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). Paul focused on that moment when Peter was trying to walk on the water himself and started to sink – the moment of drowning, when Jesus reached out his hand to pull Peter back up. I don’t remember everything Pastor Paul said about that moment when Peter’s faith clashed with his doubt, but I do remember feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit as Paul was preaching, bringing a tear to my eye and to eyes of others who were listening. I remember learning – in the heart, not just the head – that in those moments when everything seems to go wrong, Jesus is there with an outstretched hand, pulling me up, calling me to go “outside myself” in faith.

I am deeply grateful to Pastor Paul (and the Spirit who inspired his sermon) for that reminder. I am grateful that the differences that have kept my dad and me from communicating freely in the past have been overcome and he feels free enough to share his writing with me. And I am grateful, as always, for you – the many friends and cyberfriends who continue to hold my dad and my family in their prayers.

Darrell
Grateful Bear
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Update on Dad

My dad, Lloyd Grizzle, remains in Kindred Hospital in Atlanta, with acute pancreatitis. He is now able to eat food (if hospital Jello counts as food), which is great since it has been several weeks since he could do so. He had a good CT scan earlier this week, confirming that the necrosis in his pancreas has stabilized and is not spreading. (That alone is an answer to prayer!) He is in good spirits, with a good sense of humor, but he is still in a lot of pain and sometimes falls asleep while talking because of all the pain medication he is taking. The doctors are talking about transferring him soon to another hospital (maybe Emory) so he can have the surgeries he needs on his pancreas and gallbladder. The prognosis is definitely improving.

Many thanks to all my friends and cyberfriends who are continuing to hold my dad up in their prayers.

~ Darrell [Grateful Bear]

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Update on Dad / When Squirrels Attack

My dad, Lloyd Grizzle, is now at the LTAC (Long Term Acute Care) unit of Kindred Hospital in midtown Atlanta. He continues to suffer complications from acute pancreatitis but his condition has stabilized. He is still in a lot of pain. His doctors will be meeting with our family this week to talk about a plan of action. The plan is still for him to rest and continue to heal so he can be strong enough to have the surgeries he needs: at least one, maybe more, to remove the parts of his pancreas that have become nectrotic, and one to remove his gallbladder. The doctors believe his pancreatitis came about when a gallstone became lodged in his pancreas.

One morning last week, as I was driving to Jasper, GA, to pick up my mom to drive her to the hospital (she is unable to drive because of vision problems), I passed beneath a tree branch with my convertible top down and a squirrel jumped down, landed on top of my head, and scampered into the back seat and jumped out of the car. Thankfully, I was wearing a baseball cap and survived the attack without injury. The squirrel left behind in my car some leaves and bits of the small tree branch it had jumped or fallen from.

My brother Jason said he read somewhere that squirrels are beginning to attack humans. I don't know if this was an attack or the result of a squirrel misjudging the strength of a tree branch. I did find this photo, though, at the website of Relevant magazine, which seems to support my brother's theory.


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