Barnyard Stories

Former farmer race horse trainer and bar owner Trisha regaled me with some “stories I swear are the truth.” Who wouldn’t want to listen to a story teller with a triumvirate of careers like that?  This is when visits with my hospice patients get entertaining, which in turn feeds this blog. Her first story was about three ducks. “I was in a gardening store and I saw three ducks there, looking like the owner wanted to sell them soon or who knows what might happen to them. So I was worried about them, and I offered to pay whatever he wanted. And when I offered to do that, he said I could have ‘em for free. For free? I couldn’t believe it; I was ready to pay whatever he wanted. So I took ‘em. Well I knew there’d be trouble with my husband when I brought them home, but you see I was worried about what would happen to them. Anyway, when I got home, I put ‘em in the bathtub.” At that point I did become skeptical, so I said, “In the bathtub? Well what about bathing?” Trisha just went right on. I guess she took literally the idea of associating ducks with bathtubs. “My husband wasn’t so pleased with that. Well eventually I got one of those outdoor plastic pools, you know, and I put the ducks there.” I could just picture the cute little darlings splashing around, and the husband (now her “ex” go figure) grunting his displeasure mixed in with resigned tolerance.

She had one more story for me: “I saw this chicken dragging its leg along, and I took it to our farm because I wanted to rescue it. I was so stupid; I put it on the ground to let it do what it wanted. And then nine vultures came down from all around, and then there were feathers all over as they grabbed it and tore at it and hauled it off. They went and killed it,” she said shamefacedly. Maybe after that she stuck with caring for horses.

I wanted to hear more stories, but by now Trisha had run out of energy. Next time, though, and if she is game, I hope to hear about the horses and her bar, and then make you privy to her anecdotes as well.

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Speed Visiting

On a short-term experimental basis the hospice I work for has decided to try out a new system for chaplain visits. It is called “speed visiting” (after the concept of “speed dating”). We know the advantages of speed dating, where we quickly screen out the folks we are not interested in and zero in on the most likely candidates. Why spend lots of time trying to unravel all sorts of deep and convoluted layers of meaning when a truly skilled chaplain can size up a person in a matter of seconds? After all, we know the signs of sadness, anger, disgust, ennui, denial and all the rest. And we know how to instantly respond to their need to be heard. We just have to urge them to express their distress in a sound-bite appropriate length, just as they do in other areas of their life. We just have to reassure them that we get what they are feeling almost as if we were inside their brains, so they don’t have to elaborate.  And why waste gobs of time with patients who really are not the least bit interested in seeing a chaplain just to have more to say in our medical record notes? And if we need to vent, we really are desperate if we have to do so in our clinical notes, I mean really!

Really? Speed visiting? April Fools!!