This is the interview with Chaplain Andrea Raynor, about death and how to cope with it, on Monday Night Radio. Monday Night Radio is an online (Internet-based) talk radio show where different experts are interviewed, and people around the world can listen via the Internet, and call in to talk with the expert, and ask them questions.
The Internet Patrol’s Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., is the host of Monday Night Radio.
This Monday Night Radio show with Raynor was first aired on 11/1/10. In addition to reading the interview below, you can listen to the recorded show via iTunes – where you can also subscribe to the podcast of all of the recorded shows. Here is the iTunes link: http://www.MondayNightRadio.com/ref/MNR-iTunes.
Links to the guest’s website and book, if any, are at the end of the interview. Links to books and websites that our listeners called in about are also listed.
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Anne: Good evening everybody and welcome to another episode of Monday Night Radio. We have got such an incredible show tonight for you. I am so excited about our guest. We will get to her in just a minute. First I have a couple of things to tell you. Again I want to remind you that you can call in both to listen and to ask questions of our guest or give her your comment. The number from anywhere in North America is 866-Monday6. That’s 866-Monday6. If you are calling from outside North America you can call us directly at 3478573122. That’s 3478573122. If you want to save yourself a dime you can drop us a comment by Twitter @mondayradio, or by e-mail at email@example.com. Also you can listen in via Skype. That link is on our website at mondaynightradio.com. I also want to remind you that if you would like to get free automatic e-mail reminders of the upcoming shows, find out in advance who is going to be on with us and also to get notices when we post the recorded audio or the interviews, you can sign up for our newsletter. You can do that either on the site or you can do that through our Facebook page. Our Facebook page is at facebook.com/mondaynightradio. There are so many ways to get a hold of us to ask a question. Now, before we start I would also like to play a comment that we received. Remember that sometimes we ask questions. We do that through our newsletter. We love to get your comments. This is a comment that someone gave us. What they feel about a story having to do with the FBI tracking people by attaching GPS units to their cars and they don’t need a warrant to do that. So, we wanted to hear what people thought of that. You are welcome to also let us know what you think of that. Here we go. Here is this message that someone left us.
Message #1: Yes, this is Michman5243 (?) commenting on the FBI without warrant tracking with GPS. I think it is a good idea, an excellent idea. Especially if they are tracking someone who is engaged in a robbery or some kind of unlawful act, suspicious person, I think it is great. I don’t think it is really an invasion of privacy. I think it is via the telephone. I don’t think this GPS; I think it’s a great idea with the tracking with the GPS. That is just my opinion. Thank you.
Anne: So, what do you think about that? The story is that the FBI is attaching GPS units to the outside of people’s cars. They are not seeking a warrant first. Federal courts are split on that. Some federal courts, the one in California, which is where this most recently took place said, “Hey it’s a public place. The FBI doesn’t need a warrant to follow you around in public. There’s no reason they should need a warrant to attach a GPS unit to your car out in public.” Other courts have said, “Hey they need a warrant. That is a little more invasive. It’s new technology relative to back when this was last looked at.” So, let us know what you think. If you want to leave us a message on our voicemail, you can do that and we might play your message as well, your comment on the air. You can do that also at 866-Monday6, but not during the show. You can also e-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, before I bring our guest on I just want to direct your attention to our snazzy new logo. Yes, that is me. You can tell by the ever present coffee in my hand. You can see our logo on our website at mondaynightradio.com. You can also see it on our Facebook page at facebook.com/mondaynightradio. Without further ado, let’s get on to this guest. Our guest is Chaplain Andrea Raynor. She is a chaplain. I am so sorry, Chaplain Raynor, I just realized I don’t know where you live. I was imagining you were in New York, but I don’t know if that is the case. So as soon as I bring you on, you have to let us know. She was a chaplain among other things at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11. So, as you might be able to imagine she has a great deal of experience helping those who are grieving after a sudden, unexpected, incredibly tragic and shocking death. She also has experience though helping those who are dealing with the process of a loved one dying through a long, slow illness. So as you can imagine, certainly there are commonalities when you are trying to support people who are dealing with these issues, but there are also differences. The difference in how you might support someone who is grieving and also in shock, and someone who is dealing with having supported someone and dealt with caring for them through a long illness, there are similarities but there are also differences. So, let’s bring Chaplain Raynor on and determine that. I just have to find where she is. Excuse me just a minute, because I am looking on our switchboard. Ah, there she is. You know we have so many callers already waiting to talk with her that she was hidden away. Chaplain Raynor, are you there?
Chap. Raynor: Hi, Anne. Yeah, I’m here.
Anne: Hi, Chaplain Raynor. I am so sorry. I was looking for you on our switchboard. You were right next to me because you had called in right on time. Suddenly the switchboards all lit up and I couldn’t find you. Are you in New York, or are you on the east coast somewhere?
Chap. Raynor: I am in Rye, New York. I am just outside of Manhattan in Rye, New York.
Anne: I am from New York originally as well, so I know where Rye is. Does that explain how you ended up having this incredible opportunity to sit with the survivors of 9/11?
Chap. Raynor: Yeah, it was really a blessing of proximity. I happen to live in Rye very close to an Episcopal Bishop to the armed forces. His name is George Packard. Our daughters were in the 3rd grade together. So, it was through Bishop Packard that I was initially commissioned to work at Ground Zero.
Anne: Ok. Do you want to? This is a very sensitive subject even now years later, so I want to be very careful. But, of course, I also really want to hear about your experiences, as I am sure do our listeners. So, when you talk about this, do you want to tell us what you usually sort of like to talk about?
Chap. Raynor: Well you know what I find that people are very interested in even these 9 years later when it comes to my work at Ground Zero is to understand the spiritual nature of what went on at the morgue. I was stationed at the small temporary morgue. It was basically a little trailer which sat right on the site of Ground Zero. There were chaplains of every faith, every denomination who were assigned different posts, at the family center, at St. Paul’s, at Marriot Eckerds Respite Centers (?). My post was at the morgue. So, what that work really entailed was being present as remains were brought from the site, initially being exhumed from the pile which eventually became the pit that most of Americans and really people across the country watched that enormous pile of smoldering then become a very neat and tidy pit. So, when the bodies, parts of bodies, were found they were brought to our trailer and every part of every person was logged by hand into a giant book that had the time of the recovery, the place, the part of the body, if there was identification. A crime scene officer would photograph the remains because it was a crime scene and then a chaplain would offer a blessing over the remains. So, my job was to offer the blessing and also to offer support to the workers who were on site. That could entail listening to stories from people who were there on September 11th or listening to the stories from people who were there day after day working to recover remains.
Anne: Wow. Even just hearing you talk about it, it just sounds like such a monumental and incredible place to be. How did you handle for yourself everything you were seeing? How do you offer solace and comfort to someone when you yourself are surrounded by something of such an inconceivable proportion?
Chap. Raynor: It’s interesting that you say that, because if you had asked my September 10th if I could offer blessing over basically dismembered people or charred remains, I would have said, “I can’t imagine doing that.” Yet, like any of us if we are called to do a task and we feel called to do a task, you somehow are given the strength to offer yourself. So, similarly I felt called to be at the morgue as a hospice chaplain I felt that I was more acquainted with death and probably the dead than many of my colleagues having been at the bedside of probably a couple of thousand people at that point who were dying or who had died. The other part of that is that anyone that worked at Ground Zero can tell you the feeling once you are on site was this overwhelming sense of the human spirit, and the incredible goodness that was present in the face of such terrible evil and such destruction. So on the one hand I found it very difficult to start my shift. I found it very difficult to leave my kids and get on the train and go downtown. I also found it very difficult to end my shift, because to leave Ground Zero also was to leave that feeling of community and vision and support that was so alive among the workers there. So, you know it is very hard to articulate it in some ways because the feeling was of such calling when you were on site and yet I think it took me a number of years, probably about five years really, to begin to think about those experiences and to allow the memories to come back into my mind of the things that I had seen. Because, for quite some time if I were driving along and I would see a discarded shoe or a clump of leaves I would think I was seeing a part of a body. So, I know that there was some trauma there. Eventually by writing about it and sharing about it the trauma has just become part of the fabric of my life.
Anne: Well I really want to get to our callers. We have many of them. For you guys who are in the chat room hanging out there. We see you, and I’m wondering do you see us? We are messaging you and no one is responding. I’m guessing it might be because you are all so enthralled by what Chaplain Raynor has to say. Do give us a wave in the chat room to let us know because of course you can also ask questions and make comments from the chat room as well. I want to remind you that this is Monday Night Radio. We have Chaplain Andrea Raynor with us tonight. You can call in with your questions or comments at 866-Monday6. That number works anywhere in the North American Continent, 866-Monday6. If you are calling from outside of North America, you can call 3478573122. You can send us a comment by e-mail to email@example.com, or by Twitter @mondayradio, also on our Facebook page facebook.com/mondayradio. I have just way too many Internet addresses in my head. Chaplain Raynor, the one other thing I wanted to ask, this is not a show about 9/11, but obviously it is something that is still greatly in our memory and is very interesting also to us all. To try to imagine someone being there in your capacity, the one thing I wanted to ask before we move on if you don’t mind is, 9/11 was carried out in the name of a certain type of group of people that are religiously affiliated. I am trying to be really careful here because I don’t think anyone here really credits any religion with doing something so heinous, but it was certainly carried out in that name. How did you handle the questions of faith that I am sure must have come up at that site when you were trying to help the grieving families? Faith is questioned anyway at a time like that, but I have to imagine that there was an underpinning of, “What kind of faith would allow this to be carried out in its name?” Did that come up a lot with the grieving survivors?
Chap. Raynor: You would be surprised. Please first of all, call me Andy. You would be actually very surprised at the level of spirituality and faith that was present at Ground Zero. While the act was carried on by people of a particular faith, I think everyone there recognized that heinous acts are performed and have been performed throughout history in the name of God, whatever Christian God, Muslim God, whatever. These are human beings who take something holy and they twist it. In all of the research that I have done and all of the biblical studies that I have done, I did my divinity work at Harvard; I have not seen an authentic religion that advocates hatred. So the fringe radical group of any religion does not represent the heart of the religion itself. To answer your question in a more intimate way, I was present one night; I worked a lot of nights, when a young Port Authority officer was speaking with me. He was just a big kid basically. He looked like a young man. His name was Rudy. The Port Authority Police lost more men and women in uniform I think than the NYPD. He said that he was present when some remains of one of the hijackers was found. I guess they could tell there was part of the nose of the plane. I was riveted. I said, “Rudy, were those remains desecrated in any way? Were they spat upon or were they treated in a way that was not respectful?” He said, “Absolutely not. We treated those remains like we would have any other remains of the deceased.” Looking at me he said, “Because we all knew that was still someone’s son. That could have been someone’s father. It was not for us to judge.” It really humbled me so much. I thought if these men and women who were literally picking through the dirt for the fingers and toes of their loved ones to find the remains of one of the hijackers still recognized the sacred nature of life and could separate the insanity of what we inflict upon each other from that sacredness. Certainly you or I could do the same thing.
Anne: I have to tell you that just gave me chills, just goose bumps as you were saying that. It’s beautiful. There is that sort of trite, overused, repetition of I think it was from the Hindenburg, “Oh the humanity.” But, really it is more like, “Oh, wow, the humanity.” That’s amazing.
Chap. Raynor: It’s very humbling. The general questions of why I think they are essential to being human. It’s sort of like the book “Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” and those general questions of why which really cross all faiths. Those I think still remain and those remain with people who have lost loved ones, whether through a tragedy like 9/11 or a car accident or a murder or even a long term illness from cancer. Those questions of why are just part of our fabric as human beings as we search for meaning and search for some sort of reason to our days. How do we reconcile those of us who believe in a higher power with the fact that terrible things happen. So, those questions remain, but being specifically against a particular religion, I did not find that at Ground Zero.
Anne: Well now speaking of that we have got again the switchboard is just lit up the like the proverbial Christmas tree, so we are going to get to callers in just a moment. First, let me remind everyone that you can call in to talk with Chaplain Andy at 866-Monday6, or if you are calling from outside North America you can call 3478573122. Send us a message by Twitter @mondayradio or on Facebook at facebook.com/mondayradio or you can call in via Skype and talk to Chaplain Raynor. I also want to clear something up. We got an e-mail from someone who is listening and waiting to talk to Chaplain Andy on the phone, what I had said was that there was no one responding in our chat area. There are plenty of callers. There are ever so many callers. But, there is also a chat area built into the Blog Talk Radio site. We see a whole bunch of people hanging out there, but no one seems to be talking to us which is a bit unusual, so we wanted to be sure that the chat system was actually working. So, let us go to those callers. Callers, I am going to just ask you to ask your question or make your comment and then if you can let Chaplain Andy answer you on the air just so we can get to everyone if at all possible. First up we have Joan from Georgia. I think she has a story to tell us. Hi, Joan, are you there?
Caller #1: Yes, I’m here.
Chap. Raynor: Hi, Joan.
Anne: Hi, Joan, you are on the air with Chaplain Andy.
Caller #1: Hi, how are you?
Chap. Raynor: Good.
Caller #1: I just actually wanted to actually make a comment about my particular situation. I was actually married and 6 weeks later my husband was diagnosed with leukemia. So, basically the entire marriage he was actually sick and I was practically his 2nd nurse. He died 2.5 years later. I can remember when he passed away; I didn’t at that time because I was a Christian I didn’t ask the question why, because I knew the answer to that particular question. I just wanted to say that some years before that my mom had passed away and at that time I asked the question why. I wasn’t a Christian at that time, and actually how I dealt with the deaths was actually different. When my mom died I had a very difficult time dealing with it, but when my husband died I had an easier time dealing with it because I was a Christian and I knew that even though my husband was gone, God still had a purpose for me. He had put my husband in my life for that period of time and we were closer as a result of his illness. I had to go on and fulfill my purpose. I just wanted to share that with the actual listeners.
Anne: Joan, thank you very much for that comment. Chaplain Raynor, do you have a response to that?
Chap. Raynor: Only, first of all I am so sorry for your loss. You must be an incredibly strong woman to have dealt with the loss of your mother and then having your husband diagnosed. So, really my prayers go out to you first and foremost. Along with that, I think people of every faith, I’ve seen this with hospice living in the New York area I’ve worked with people that were Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, and Agnostic. But, people who have a faith, regardless of what that faith is, they often will both handle a death with a little less depression and probably with a little more strength and perseverance. Also, if one is terminally ill, if there is an abiding faith, then they also can potentially have a more peaceful passing because there is less anxiety. I have seen that across the board of almost every tradition. There is something in us as human beings that yearns to understand that we are spiritual beings incased in these bodies. It’s interesting when you were talking initially about the question before we started about the GPS and the FBI. I thought if we could put a GPS on the soul and really know and follow where these souls go then all of these questions of religion would be answered. But, we can’t do that so we are really left to our own quests. I think that is an essential part of being human is to aspire towards knowledge and towards understanding to be spirit and body. So, I would just affirm what she is saying in terms of her own grieving. To have a faith and to interpret it for your life and to interpret the tragedies that happen to us we can find meaning in our days. It’s really not for us to impose that interpretation on another person. So, that’s just the first thing that strikes me as I hear that story.
Anne: That makes a great deal of sense. Let’s go now to Carl from Philadelphia who has been waiting for quite a while to speak with you. I believe that Carl actually has written some on this subject. Carl, are you there?
Caller #2: I am here. Good evening, ladies.
Chap. Raynor: Hi, Carl.
Anne: Hi, Carl. Welcome to Monday Night Radio.
Caller #2: Thank you, thank you it is a pleasure to be here. I actually have written a book about our family’s saga which entailed my losing a brother to suicide when I was 16 and he was 22 and having lost my dad 8 years later because it basically killed him. This is a story that I just needed to write. I started to write this book years ago and couldn’t find a publisher because everybody said it was too personal. I kept thinking, you know what, you morons, this is really what it is about. It is personal. It had a really strong message, which I think at the time people really were afraid of. I think that suicide is a subject that has a real taboo about it, and it’s been ignored and shunned for so long that the beast has been allowed to grow. It’s only until recent years and there’s such a spate of kids taking their lives. This has really become a common topic. I’m glad I wrote book. In fact, we just added a subtitle. The book is called “Bader Field”. Forgive me for rambling once I get started, this is a really important subject for me having lived through it and trying to save other people’s lives. The book is called “Bader Field” because it is the last place I saw my dad. It is a small airport outside of Atlantic City which is now defunct. But, it still has strong meaning to me and a lot of other people. The subtitle which we are literally in the throes of adding to the book, my publisher and myself is going to be listed as “How my Family Survived Suicide”, because I realized that Bader Field doesn’t really mean a whole lot to a lot of people and they don’t know what the book is about, but this is really going to bring it to life. I guess my message to anyone out there who is contemplating taking their life, not only do they take their life, their family dies with them. They take a lot of people, and if they would just realize that there is help out there for them. People do love them, there’s always a better answer. Suicide is never, ever the answer. It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Anne: That’s a really good way of putting it, Carl.
Caller #2: Well, you know, it’s the truth and it’s an ugly event. A million people a year take their lives and that is a staggering statistic. It’s like any other illness, ailment, or disease it’s got to be stopped. The only way to stop it is through recognition and mass exposure.
Anne: Carl, first of all I am very, very sorry for your loss. I am sure that Chaplain Raynor has something to say as well, but before I take you off the air what is the name of your book? You have two books I think. Do you want to give the full titles out for both and tell people where they can get them?
Caller #2: Sure. The first book that I have written is called “Collecting and Care of Fine Art”. First and foremost, I am the 3rd generation fine art dealer in Philadelphia in our firm which is the David David Gallery. That book is actually out of print, but I wrote it to dispel the myths of investment and hype and separate the truths from reality in the abstract art market which is really complicated. But, the latest book, which is really probably going to be a permanent work is called “Bader Field” it’s by Carl David, published by Nightengale Press. It’s available on Amazon. Just do a Google search for “Bader Field by Carl David” and it will come up in a million places. But, my website is carledavid.com. It’s very easily found. It will be available on the iPad I would think in the next month or so.
Anne: That’s excellent. Thank you for raising this very important subject. Chaplain Raynor, I have a very hard time calling you by your first name. I was just raised not to do that.
Chap. Raynor: That’s ok.
Anne: Have you dealt with providing solace or grief services to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide?
Chap. Raynor: Unfortunately as Carl has intimated it is not an uncommon occurrence. Thankfully, most of the deaths over which I have presided or officiated services for are not result of suicide. Suicide is a very complex issue because you have both the person that has felt such despair or meaninglessness or futility that they are inspired in a moment of not really thinking things through, they’ve taken that moment to kill themselves. Then, you have the family or those who have loved the person who are left in the wake of this act. It is a very complicated grieving process because families can be left very angry, very guilt-ridden and “Why didn’t I see this coming?”, and then general grief of having lost someone that they have loved in such a traumatic way. So, suicide is almost its own category. What it highlights to me is that it really matters how we live, how we die, and how we are treated after we are dead. All of those things they come back to our understanding of what it is to be human and what it is to live on this planet with other human beings. So, yeah again my heart goes out to Carl and I think writing about our experiences is very cathartic, very helpful. Talking about our experiences helps remove any sense of shame over having had a loved one who has taken his or her own life. Telling our stories which I think we will probably get to that theme of telling one’s story is very prevalent in any sort of grief work. So, suicide is a very difficult thing to survive if you are a family member.
Anne: You are listening to Monday Night Radio and our guest is Chaplain Andy Raynor. You can give her a call at 866-Monday6. If you are calling from outside of North America the number is 3478573122. You can find us on Twitter at @mondayradio. Before we take any more calls, Chaplain Raynor, I wanted to ask you, let’s start with someone who is grieving over a sudden unexpected loss. What would you say are the top three things that friends and other family members can do to help support them and to provide them some measure of comfort? As the outsider you are always at such a loss to as to what do you do, what do you say? It seems so hopeless and so trite and the clichés are just that, clichés. What would you recommend?
Chap. Raynor: Well it can be very intimidating if you are a friend of someone who has suffered a traumatic loss because so many of us we don’t want to say the wrong thing so we tend not to say anything. I know I had a friend years ago who lost a 10 month old baby as a result of a SIDS death. What she found was that because people were afraid to say the wrong thing suddenly she was isolated and no one was coming and offering their friendship at all. One of the things you can do is simply call your friend and say, “What can I do for you?” Do you need a meal brought? Do you need me to tell people not to bring food? Do you need transportation for one of your children? Do you need me to pick up your groceries? Sometimes just offering those simple day to day tasks that will make the other person’s life just a little bit easier is very helpful. In offering that concrete “Can I pick you up a gallon of milk?”, then a conversation might ensue where you friend might say, “I’m really ok with milk, but I just can’t stop crying today.” If you have the courage to sit with that without trying to fix it because as friends and as compassionate people we so much want to fix things, sometimes the person isn’t looking for us to fix anything but simply to give them the space to share their grief and to share their pain. So, the other thing that I would really suggest is that we avoid certain platitudes. Even if you firmly believe them yourself, even if this is a very real philosophy for you, I would be very careful to say things like, “Everything happens for a reason.” “This must have been God’s will.” These sorts of things that will assign a meaning to someone’s death that may or may not resonate for the one that is grieving. So, we have to be very careful with the sort of toss away phrases even if they are well intended, because we really don’t know enough to say to someone else that this happened for a reason or this was God’s will. So, for a friend that has suffered a traumatic loss, offer something concrete, offer the invitation would you like to talk about it or just go to a movie and not talk about it. Give people options to share as they are able to.
Anne: That’s such a good point that you bring up. That my heart just goes out to that poor woman that you mentioned that inaction is perhaps the worst thing that we can do, to not even just call so that we can let our friends know that we are thinking of them and to be honest even that I don’t know how I can help you, but how can I help you. It’s such great, great advice. Let’s go now to Chloe. She has been holding for a while to speak with you. She is from Washington, D.C. It sounds like she knows quite about helping people who are dealing with a long, slow situation. Chloe, are you there?
Caller #3: Yes, I am. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with both of you. I’d like to start with a quote. The author is unknown, but it’s a favorite quote of mine. In fact, I have it posted on my refrigerator door. “Death is not extinguishing the light. It is putting out the lamp, because the dawn has come.” I quote that in my latest book, because I have a section on the 10 major fears that maturing modern women have, and of course death is one of them. Another favorite anonymous quote on a more humorous side is, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” I’ve had a lot of experience with death and dying in terms of my own family members and also as a hospice volunteer. We have to deal with the subject of death a little more comfortably. When we are ready to do that for ourselves, then we are more helpful with others. I think one of the most beautiful weeks of my entire life was the week that my mom was dying. She had been ill for quite a long time, but I had been preparing her a good two years before she actually died. I would talk with her about it. One day I actually said to her, “Mom, I know exactly what’s going to happen the day God calls you home.” Of course we being Roman Catholics, I have to preface what I am saying with that remark, because not everybody would take kindly to it otherwise. She said, “What?” I said (my dad had passed away previously); “Daddy is going to be at the foot of your bed on the left side. The blessed mother is going to be on the right. Your guardian angel is going to be at your shoulder and they are going to look at you and they are going to say, ‘Chloe, it’s time to go home.’” She looked at me and her eyes got so wide. She clapped her hands just like a little kid, and says, “Ooh, I can hardly wait.” Well, the night that she was dying and her eyes had been closed all week. I would say to her, “Ma, open your eyes. Let me see your pretty eyes one more time.” She’d open and flutter and they would close again. Two days before she died, I said, “How’s it going ma?” She smiled. Her eyes were closed. She said, “I’m getting there.” I knew what she meant, but I wanted to hear more. I said, “What do you mean you are getting there?” She took her hand out from under the cover and pointed her thumb upwards and smiled. I knew what she meant. The night that she was dying, that last half hour of her life, her eyes were wide open and she was talking up a storm, but my sister and I could not make out what she was saying. I said to my sister, “We are not meant to see or hear what’s going on here, but someone has come for her.” Symbolically, I did exactly what I had said to her 2 years before. I had my dad’s picture on the left side of the table tray, and I had a statue of the blessed virgin on the right, and I had a little Christmas angel pinned above her shoulder on the bed. Symbolically I did exactly what I had described to her 2 years before. It was beautiful. I am thinking of another. I don’t want to take too much time here, but I am thinking of another case where I was working as a hospice volunteer with AIDS patients. I went in to see one of the patients that I was taking care of. I knew that he had less than 48 hours to live. I said to him, “How’s it going, Ken?” He smiled and says, “I’ve got one foot in the water, and it’s feeling just fine.” I just loved that. It just compliments everything that I believe in. We really need to read and get familiar and get comfortable with the topic of death even in our own lives. I’m 73 years old. I know I’ve lived the bulk of my life. So, each day could conceivably be my last. But, that’s ok, because in the mean time I am living each day to the max. That’s all I wanted to share.
Anne: Well that was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for that call, Chloe. One of the things that I think you highlight is that I think often people who are facing death are not as scared as the people around them. Would you say that is accurate?
Chap. Raynor: Yeah, I think that is often the case. I can recall many times as a hospice chaplain going in to a family and the family would say, “Please don’t tell mom that you are from hospice. She doesn’t really know that she is terminally ill. Turn your badge over so that she can’t see that you are from hospice.” I would go into the bedroom and the patient would say, “I’m dying, but please don’t tell my family that I am dying. I don’t want to startle them. I don’t want to scare them. Can we just have this between you and me?” So the work was really beautiful and satisfying to get the family to begin the dialogue, types of dialogue that Chloe was speaking of and had done so beautifully with her mother. So often the person who is sick and or dying has a sense of what is happening in their body. They are beginning to prepare, but it is not always the case. There is a very large part of us that cannot conceive of our own finitude even when we are very, very ill. It would be wrong to then impose that reality onto a patient who isn’t ready to hear it. I always say to people when they ask me, “How do I talk to my children about death?” I will offer some suggestions, but I will always say, “You know your own children best. What my children can handle growing up with a home where death was always a topic because their mom was a hospice chaplain. They would handle death differently than say a family where that subject was more taboo. Similarly if you have a loved one or friend who is terminally ill, you have to go with what you know that person does. Is this something that you can invite dialogue with the person? Should you wait until they bring it up? You have to kind of go with that instinct and the part of you that knows and loves them best. Just a tiny little anecdote from my own life, I had a grandmother who lived to the age of 106. She was a very strong, Kentucky woman, very straightforward. As her life began to wind down she was beginning more and more tired. She was a woman who never used a cane or a walker or a wheelchair. She certainly had all of her faculties. As she was getting more tired and resting more, I had a cousin who came and sat with her and said, “Grandma, it’s really ok to go.” My grandmother she thought was sleeping. “If you want to go, just go. You’ve been here a long time.” My grandmother opened one eye, and said, “Relax. I’m not there yet.” So, sometimes we kind of impose what we think is going to be peaceful. She wasn’t there yet. She had always said, “I want to linger. I want to get my last 2 cents in.” I teased her that I thought she was taking advantage and doing more than lingering, but who are we to ever say that someone should be ready or should be making peace or should be accepting the fact that they have a limited life span. We have to be very careful not to impose our desire for their peace on to where that person is spiritually and emotionally.
Anne: That is such great advice. I want to go to a caller now who has been waiting. Again, they are all waiting very patiently, but this is someone that has a special connection with you. I don’t know that you guys know each other, but she was also at Ground Zero working as a psychologist and she is really wanted to get on and talk with you. Dr. Judy, are you there?
Caller #4: Yes, and what a beautiful show. You are both so amazingly empathic which is what people need at times of loss. I am just listening here rapt and ready to cry over what is going on the air here and the love that is being spread. As you just said, indeed I did work as a mental health volunteer at Ground Zero. Over the years, it’s now been 9; I’ve been very upset each year as there is less attention paid to the memorials. I have a band called Standup for Peace Project. Every year we play at the UN chapel we play. We have all of these songs we wrote, The Towers of Light about the 2 towers that went up. It bothers me so much that people have let that go. There will be something perhaps for the 10th anniversary. But, some people want to put it aside. I understand that as a psychologist, but for me personally I know I need to share. So, thank you so much for letting me be on the air to share, hearing you and connecting with you, because I don’t see too many people who walked the pit as I did and handed out water and comforted a lot of the rescue workers and suffered with some of my own pain as you did 5 years. I just remember being so involved in that. It overtook my life. I did very little else at that time than really helping at the family assistance center. I’ve suffered with so many of my own losses, my brother’s suicide like you all were talking about earlier, and working in Haiti right after the earthquake. I think the bottom line of so much to say is that it has made me think as listening to you on the show and how beautifully you are hosting it and how beautifully your speaking about it, just how important it is to love people that are still with us.
Anne: Well, thank you so very, very much. I really appreciate that. Chaplain Raynor, what do you have to say to that?
Chap. Raynor: Well I mean first, I am obviously very grateful for the mental health workers who were on site. It was always kind of a strange experience to have someone from mental health field come up to me or one of the chaplains and ask how we were doing, because the role there was to be a presence. So, it was very startling and touching to have that turned around and have someone really ask how you were doing. The thing that I would be concerned about and this is for those of us that are in helping fields, there is a phenomenon called compassion fatigue. While our field like hospice or end of life or disaster relief is very gratifying, it’s a very inspiring profession. It’s obviously one you don’t go into for the money. You go in to it for those greater rewards. But, what can happen is that we can start to get very fatigued in that care giving. For those who work in disasters, going from one disaster to another it almost begins to be you’re almost on that gerbil wheel going around. So I think the self-care, whether you are a family member who is taking care of a chronically or terminally ill family member, or you are someone who is in a helping field, it is very important to kind of check in with your own spirit. One of the ways I have done that through my life of basically 20 plus years of services is to kind of realign my spirit and that I am not in this work to be some kind of do-gooder in the world or to be somebody’s superman. Rather, when I am interacting and interfacing with a person in need I am also incredibly honored and humbled that they would allow me into their life at a very intimate and very difficult time. So, as care givers if we can kind of open our hearts and our minds to the gifts that the other brings us in terms of their stories, their experiences, their trust, then it becomes a circle. What we are putting out is returned to us 10 fold in the honor of being present to one in pain. So, I’ll just offer that out to Judy. Obviously, she is doing incredible work, it’s to remember that that circular flow of energy when we are really in the zone of being where we need to be. We are putting out love and compassion and something is being returned to us. Even if it is a difficult life lesson, we are kind of rehearsing our own tragedies with each person that we encounter and getting that trial run to see how that feels as we are also being empathetic and compassionate.
Anne: Just before we go to a couple more callers, I wanted to ask you, I’ve given you enough time now I hope to think of the 3 things that you would say to someone who is supporting someone who is going through sort of the pre-grieving and extended grieving of caring for someone or watching someone sort of deteriorate through a long illness and then dealing additionally after that with their death. I know that sort of the conventional wisdom is that in some ways it is a relief because you don’t want to see them suffer and now they are at peace and all of those things. But, nonetheless, it doesn’t feel right to go up to a friend or family member who has just lost someone under that circumstance and say, “I bet you’re glad they’re out of their pain now, huh?” That’s obviously not the best way to support them.
Chap. Raynor: Sure. Yeah, I think if say you have a friend whose family member is still alive and they are terminally ill. I would think a couple of really good questions are, “How do you feel?” because people especially women we are probably more…that’s a more exercised muscle I think. We tend to be talkers. If we have a girlfriend, say, “How do you feel?” If you are asking that, make sure that you have the patience and the courage and the compassion to sit and hear those feelings which can be upsetting and sad for the listener. So, “How do you feel? What do you need? How can I help?” Those are the types of questions I think that are very important. I don’t know if we have mentioned this yet, but I am a breast cancer survivor myself. So, I kind of had the tables turned on me in many ways 3 years ago where I went from someone always helping to someone suddenly in need. That was a very strange experience initially. I found it very difficult to begin to accept the care that my friends and family were so willing to give me, but those friends of mine who said, “Do you really want more flowers, or can we channel that in to a wig fund? Do you need the meals that are coming, or would you rather have a gift certificate to a local restaurant?” Those kinds of practical questions, I found very helpful. Then those who were closest to me who would say, “What is this like for you? How are you feeling?” Those genuine questions. Now, if you are not close to a person that can also be very upsetting. I remember a colleague that I had who I didn’t even know very well who came supposedly to visit me and asked if she could see my head without my wig on. It was so invasive and so strange. “Well can I see your hair loss?” Well, no you can’t see that. It’s just bizarre what people ask you. If you are present with someone who has just lost a loved one, again to somehow refrain from imposing your own interpretation of that death on the person, simply saying, “I am so sorry.” I know that sounds like it’s not saying much, but if you say that in an empathetic way. “I am so sorry for your loss.” “I am here for you.” Those sorts of comments rather than, “God doesn’t give us more than we can bear.” While maybe that is true, that is not the right time to impose that on someone who is freshly grieving the loss. I don’t know if that answers your question Anne.
Anne: No, that was wonderful, and it made so much sense. I think that is something that we tend to lose is our common sense because we are so afraid of saying the wrong thing. We just don’t even think about what are the things that I would want someone to say, or just what are things that make sense to say?
Chap. Raynor: Well we get nervous. I’ll just say one last thing. It’s from William Sloan Coffin who was the great preacher in Manhattan at Riverside Cathedral. He lost his 23 year old son in a terrible car accident in Boston, this is years ago. He had many of his parishioners coming and bringing food and hugging, physical contact and those hugs are so healing, but he also had a few who would say to him, “This must be God’s will, pastor. You of all people would know this must be God’s will.” This would absolutely infuriate Sloan Coffin. He later wrote about this and said, “We never know enough to say that something is God’s will, especially for another person, but that God’s was the first of all of our hearts to break the day that my son went into the Boston Harbor.” So to somehow to connect someone to the reality of a compassionate God rather than one who sort of whimsically imposes tragedy on some and spares others, I think is really so much more helpful.
Anne: Absolutely, and such wisdom. Thank you for raising that. What a story. We are not going to be able to get to all of the callers. I apologize, but there are just so many people that have things they want to say, and we have limited time. I want to make sure to tell everyone if we don’t get to you, please, please submit your question or your comments to our e-mail address which is firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward to Chaplain Andy. That doesn’t mean that she is going to be able to answer them, but certainly we will make sure that she gets them. If the comments are for us, then we are of course looking forward to seeing them as well. Even if it is just, “Gosh darn it, I really wanted to talk and I didn’t get to.” I’ve never seen it look like this.
Chap. Raynor: Also, if they are interested and they want to go on to my website, it is revandrearaynor.com. I believe there is a spot there where they can leave a question or a comment. They can sign the virtual guestbook. I will then be able to respond to them. Again revandrearaynor.com or you can also Google my book, “The Voice That Calls You Home”.
Anne: Which is also available from Amazon, and all of that information will also be available on our website. So, if you don’t catch it here. You can certainly catch it through the website. I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to cut you off.
Chap. Raynor: Oh, no.
Anne: Could we just get one or two more callers quickly. We have about 3 minutes left. I want to bring Sandy on, calling from Washington. Sandy, are you there?
Caller #5: Yes, I am.
Chap. Raynor: Hi, Sandy.
Caller #5: Hi. I realize we are short on time. In a nut shell, I am a grieving mother and an author. I wrote a book actually on the topic of this show. My experience comes from losing my firstborn in a car accident, so that was a very sudden death. Then, I lost my fourth child to childhood cancer.
Chap. Raynor: Oh, my goodness.
Caller #5: So, I have both. I have the night and day. So, I can say for me, the differences were profound. When I lost my son it was sudden and immediate, and my arms were empty and I struggled for years and years with all of the whys, hows, and the empty arms. When my baby died of cancer, because of the long treatment and being in ICU for 55 straight days and surgeries and chemotherapies and everything, I was grieving the entire time, so yes in a way it was easier to start my grief journey because I was already grieving. Not to say that it is easier, but they were night and day differences on how I lost my children and how I grieved. The one thing that I got out of it that I wrote a book because of was everyone saying, “I don’t know what to say to you. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help you.” That was…
Anne: Sandy, what’s the name of your book? I’m sorry to cut you off, but I would like to let you get that in and we have 45 seconds, so what is the name of your book so people can find it?
Caller #5: becomingbiggerthanourpain.com will take you to the website.
Anne: “Becoming Bigger than Our Pain”, excellent, becomingbiggerthanourpain.com, that’s Sandy’s book. Then, Reverend Andrea Raynor, and her book is “The Voice That Calls You Home.” You can find that on Amazon. You can also look her up at her website at revandrearaynor.com. Reverend Raynor, thank you so much for joining us. Will you come back? This was wonderful, and we clearly have lots of callers who would love to see you.
Chap. Raynor: Thank you so much, Anne. Thank you for having me. Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories.
Anne: Thank you very much for everything that you do. We look forward to hopefully having you back.
Chap. Raynor: That sounds great.
Anne: Next week get organized with organizing expert Linda Samuels who is going to give you tips on how to get your life organized.
Andrea Raynor’s book, “The Voice That Calls You Home”
Some links to our listeners’ books and websites:
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