Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Papa Neal

July 3, 1921-February 21, 2006 Posted by Picasa

The Land of the Living

The recent absence of blogging has been due, at least in part, to the busyness of the weekend in attending a funeral. Aubrey's grandfather, Papa Neal, passed away last Tuesday, and we drove up to Nashville over the weekend to attend the funeral and spend time with family.

I haven't been to many funerals, and so they still strike me as very unusual events. Death is a scary thing, as so it spends most of its time being ignored. We prefer to think about happy things, and light, fluffy things, and avoid anything that smacks of serious consequence. Funerals make you think about death. And thinking about death makes you think about life. That can be uncomfortable sometimes too. Friday night was the visitation, for about four hours people came and visited with the family, and the casket was open, and Papa Neal was reclining in a nice suit. Most of the socializing went on as normal, away from the casket, talking about all manner of ordinary things, trying to laugh and carry on as usual. But everyone took a turn going by the casket, paying their last respects, and at least for a moment, not knowing what to say. What do you say? Its hard to come so close to the reality of death. Moses pleads that God would teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. We need to contemplate death, because we need to contemplate life, and we need to know the one who holds it all in His hands.

I held back my tears at the funeral, but I cried at the burial. Partly because Papa Neal had been in the military, so they gave a 21 gun salute, and played Taps. Officially the ceremony ended with the prayer, but nobody moved as the cemetary workers came and turned the winch to lower the casket into the grave. The nice wooden casket was placed in a metal box, and then lowered 6 feet down. Papa Neal's only remaining brother, the last of 6 kids, was helped out of his wheelchair, and stood right next to the grave, as though to be close one last time. He gently tossed the first shovelfull of dirt, then the backhoe was unceremoniously started, and filled in the rest of the grave. And so it was. His body was committed back to the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. He doesn't need it anymore. His soul has gone into the presence of God, to await the ressurection of the dead. Should the Lord tarry each of us shall follow. But not forever. Death is an enemy, and it shall be conquered.

"But I shall rise victorious and subdue
My vanquisher, spoiled of his vaunted spoil.
Death his death's wound shall the recieve and stoop
Inglorious, of his mortal sting disarmed...
While by Thee raised I ruin all my foes,
Death last, and with his carcass glut the grave...
Wrath shall be no more,
Thenceforth but in Thy presence joy entire."

-J. Milton Paradise Lost

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Seasons of Refreshing

We had an evening service at our church tonight. Sadly, we don't usually have them. But we are starting them up at the unhurried pace of one service every two months. The biggest problem is that as a fairly new church plant we don't have our own building, and so we have nowhere to meet in the evenings. Tonight we borrowed the Episcopalians building. We have borrowed it several times now. There are at least five reasons why I love evening church, and why it was a good service.

1. The nice building. Them Episcopalians know how to build. This seems like a small point to start on, but after meeting in a plain room week after week, being in a real sanctuary feels pretty nice. They have a great cross up front, a nice wooden pulpit, and nice big windows on both sides making it feel big and airy. The pews were kind of hard, but the kneelers were padded, and I took advantage.

2. The unhurried pace. Evening church always has a more relaxed feel, and it is a wonderful way to end the Lord's day, by coming together again with God's people, to worship and relax together. Morning services have a more rushed, official feel, but in the evenings you can mosey and reflect.

3. Good preaching. I think our pastor hits his stride in the evening, because the two evening services I have heard him preach have been some of his best preaching. He sticks to the text more closely, and goes through explaining what God's word is to us from the text. Tonight he took the letter to the church in Laodicia, and exposed our tendency to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Guilty as charged.

4. Communion. Tonight we did communion by families. Family units went to the front together, and knelt at the altar, and were served communion and prayed for by one of the elders. Sadly, Aubrey had to work a shift at the hospital, so I was a fractured family unit, but still Craig prayed for me, and it was fun to see the families of the church go up together.

5. Singing. Doing communion that way takes a while, so during the time, we all got to sing a whole slew of good songs, including one of my favorites "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." I also used some of the extended singing time to pray kneeling on the kneelers, and to flip through the Book of Common Prayer that was in the pew rack in front of me. I love the Book of Common Prayer, I think its an added bonus of being an Episcapalian, that we Presbyterians miss out on.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

post call Aubrey

Here I am, trying to sleep today after my bad ER shift. Apparently, Jeff took this photo while I was sleeping. Posted by Picasa

Hard Night

Last night was one of the hardest I've had since coming to med school. Around 2:30 am we got the call that an infant was coming in "full code," meaning without any heartbeat and not breathing. The baby got there, a two month old, still wearing his blue striped pajamas his mother had dressed him in as she put him to bed. He had a dirty diaper. He had been sick recently with a virus that causes respiratory problems, but in a full-term otherwise healthy baby, it shouldn't cause this. His parents put him to bed around 10, and his mom checked on him at 11, but when his dad came in around 2:30, he wasn't breathing.
The doctor intubated him, and the nurses started IVs and began to push fluids in, hoping that would increase the volume of his blood and help recuscitate him. They gave him epinephrine, a medicine to help start his heart, and continued doing CPR. The alarms on the monitor kept going off because his heart wasn't beating. His skin looked pale in comparison to his dark brown hair and brown eyes that were partially open. You could tell he was gone already. We continued trying to resuscitate him with more medicine and CPR. Finally, the doctor asked everyone to stop as he listened one more time for a heart beat. It wasn't there, and then a nurse listened again, just to make sure. I felt his small foot, hoping to feel a heartbeat. It was cold and pale. The nurses then started to clean him up and wrapped him in a thin striped blanket before his parents came in. The doctor and chaplain went out and brought his family in. His mother looked so young - she could not have been older than me. I do not think I have ever seen such raw grief as I saw on her face and in the crying face of her husband as they entered the room.
I have had a few patients die this year already, probably more than many students. But this was awful. No matter when death comes, something about it just feels wrong. This is not supposed to happen. But when a child dies, an infant whose life just began, there is something that feels even more awful. Since this is my chosen profession, I am sure I will see terrible things like this all through my career. I don't think I will ever get used to it. And I do not think I will ever forget how his tiny foot lay against the stretcher. Or how it made me long for heaven.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I have never eaten much asparagus. On monday night, though, I cooked some and thoroughly enjoyed it. One strange thing happened after I ate it- this might be gross- but I noticed my pee smelled strange. At first, I didn't know what to think. There was this strong unusual odor. Then I remembered my mom mentioning one time that Asparagus can make your pee smell different. So I, being somewhat science minded, decided to do a little research on the topic. I googled it. This is what I discovered:
Asparagus contains a sulfur compound called mercaptan, a compound which is also found in rotten eggs, garlic, and skunk spray. When this compound is broken down, other sulfur products are released, and these get filtered into the urine, which is what makes them smell. However, not everyone who eats asparagus notices the smell. So for a while, people thought that a part of the population lacked some enzyme that broke down mercaptan into the compounds that make the urine smell. Then someone got this bright idea: they got people whose urine did smell to smell the urine of the non-smelly urine group. (Hopefully they paid them well for this.) And apparently, those whose urine smelled could also smell the same scent in the urine of those whose urine supposedly didn't smell. So now the big debate is whether there could also be some kind of genetic difference that causes some people to be able to smell it, and some not.
Jeff and I decided that I apparently have a very strong sense of smell. Perhaps if I were a superhero, that is what my superpower would be: keen smell. Maybe I should make a costume with a nose emblem on it. You could call me SuperSniff or the human hound dog. During the day I will be Dr. Tell, a mild mannered physician, but when I smell trouble....it's Supersniff to the rescue.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine's Dinner

Jeff and I had a great dinner tonight. Since we have Bible study tomorrow, we celebrated a little early. We made marinated flank steak with garlic herb butter, asparagus, homemade rolls, stuffed mushrooms, and for dessert....chocolate souffle with raspberry sauce. I was pleased with how well it turned out. We also opened a bottle of good red wine. And used our china. Then Jeff gave me a poem he wrote for me. A nice beginning-of-the-week date!

Sunday, February 12, 2006


I love breakfast. It is easily my favorite meal of the day. I have always been a fan of breakfast, at least as long as I can remember. My mom cooked us breakfast almost every day before school. With four growing kids, cereal would have been expensive, so she just cooked us things: cream of wheat, oatmeal, cheese toast, french toast, pancakes, scrambled eggs. I don't think I appreciated enough what she did. Now, hot breakfast is a real treat. Since I have to get to the hospital so early, I don't usually have time to cook something. My standard breakfast these days is a bowl of cereal, often with banana on it. Usually either raisin bran, raisin bran crunch, wheat chex, frosted mini wheats, or whatever else was on sale. This week it has been life, which probably my favorite cereal. Yesterday, though, was great. Since it was the first saturday in a few months where I have not had to go to the hospital to round, I got to sleep in. I woke up and read in bed for a little while until Jeff also woke up. Then I made french toast with cinnamon raisin bread. Yum. And we also ate some fruit salad. With fresh pineapple. Yum again. I just don't think anything could be better than good breakfast. Except maybe something chocolate.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Customer Service

Part of my job involves customer service. And I am a "floater" which means I have no office. Which means I have no telephone number. Which means, that whenever somebody needs to call me, they have to call the "main number" and be routed through the call center, who can transfer them to me. I know that this is very frustrating for people and I feel vaguely bad telling them this. Unless I don't like them, or am trying to avoid them, in which case its very handy. "Nope, sorry sir, no phone number." With people I do like, I have occasionally given out my email address in hopes of making their life easier. Nobody likes to get "the run around."

Today I got the biggest run around in the world. You see, Aubrey had given me an FM transmitter for Christmas, so I can listen to my MP3 player through the car radio rather than my headphones. I've been having some issues with it lately, so I called the customer "service" number. After a few minutes on hold I discussed my situation with Antoine. He couldn't fix my problem, but he said he was sending me an email that would tell me what to do. I thought this was a bit odd, but I said OK and was done with it. Well, today I got the email. The email had a link to the customer "service" website, and supplied me with a name and password. So off I went to the website. I logged in, and was able to read the instructions for how to get my toy fixed. I am supposed to fill out a form with 10 items, including name address, etc., as well as a copy of my receipt, and fax it to a long distance fax number. Then I am supposed to wait 2 days for them to read my fax, and shortly thereafter they will send me an email with further instructions!!!!! What?!? Am I on a secret mission where it is too dangerous to tell me the entire process at once?

This is the most ridiculous bird brained thing I have ever seen. I'm not sure I could come up with something so inconvenient if I tried. Anyway, my current saving grace is that my doodad seems to be working OK today, so I might not have to fax in my coordinates, and wait for them to email me the secret handshake.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Lily given to me by Jeff

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Aubrey's January Book List

Here is what I read in January:

The Solace of leaving early - haven kimmel (really good)
Delta wedding - eudora welty (don’t bother)
grace at bender springs - vinita wright (I read this because I had heard it was “good” christian fiction. I was not impressed.)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling (not as good as three but upon a second read still good)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling (harry is too whiny and full of angst in this one)
Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling(the best one since three)
Good in Bed – Jennifer Weiner (an interesting look at sex/relationships through a non-christian perspective, easy and entertaining)
The Hours – Michael Cunningham (somewhat slow but good)
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath (A good insight into depression and feminism - I really liked this one)

Overall, I would recommend The Bell Jar, The Solace of Leaving Early, and of course the Harry Potter series.

Any recommendations?

Monday, February 06, 2006

"Its OK Officer, I'm dead to the Law"

I had a bit of a nasty run-in with the law today. I was happily at work this morning, when I was told that a different branch needed my help, and I was to go to the other branch for the rest of the day. I was all too happy to comply, and I hopped in my car to go. As I was getting on the interstate there was an 18-wheeler in front of me and a cop car behind me. The semi was going really slowly on the entrance ramp, and I was worried about having to merge at 15 mph. Then the cop car behind me turns on his flashing lights. Honestly, my first reaction was one of joy and relief. The cop is looking out for us, I thought, he doesn't want us to get in an accident having to merge onto the interstate at 15 mph, and he is providing a little protection for us. I wish. My happy go lucky attitude quickly faded, when a glance in the rearview mirror revealed the officer pointing vigorously at the side of the road. Perhaps he wanted me to get out of the way so he could pull the semi over for merging too slowly? No, in fact he wanted to pull me over.

I had no where to go, I was toast. There I was a sitting duck with expired tags. By the time the ugly incident was over I had recieved Four (4) traffic tickets. Each one for $232. This is not good. My rap sheet includes No proof of ownership, No registration, No proof of insurance, and finally, the wrong address on my drivers liscence. Who knew it was a crime to have the wrong address on your drivers liscence? (further investigation reveals that Aubrey knew this)

In my defense, the car is registered, and we do have insurance. Full Coverage. And as of tonight, we will have proof of these things carried in the car at all times. So now I'm set to go to court on March 1. The officer said that as long as I took care of the problems, and showed up to court he would "help me out" with the charges. Maybe when I go to court I will take the opportunity to explain that as a Christian I am not under law but under grace. Jesus pays all our debts right?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Date night

Jeff and I had a great time last night. Through MUSC, I was able to buy 2 tickets to a minor league hockey game for only $8. We love cheap dates. First, we used a gift certificate Andrew and Melanie gave us for Christmas and went and got sandwiches at a local deli. I added a salad bar to my order for $3, ate a big salad, and just saved my sandwich. (I just ate it today) Then we went up to the Coliseum for the hockey game. The Charleston Stingrays played against the Greenville Grrowl. (It really is spelled like that.) And our home town players won. (I say hometown, though 80% of them are from Canada.) I like hockey. It's fun to watch, even though it is easy to lose track of where the puck is. And it's even harder to pay attention when all the usual antics of minor league sports teams are going on. There is the crazy guy dancing around throwing t-shirts to everyone, the local car dealer sending cars out onto the ice during intermission, the remote controlled dirigible that drops coupons out on the crowd, the cheerleaders/dancers who do their thing during these tiny snipets of music played whenever there is a break in the action, the personal injury attorney who has videotaped himself in certain situains where he is explaining the rules. Plus there is crowd: cute kids screaming at the t-shirt guy, crying inexplicably, dancing with the cheerleaders/dancers, and the ever present slightly intoxicated man who continually yells "knock him into the boards" and "hit him." Last night was military appreciate night, so also during intermission the different branches played tug-of-war. On the ice. You can probably imagine how that went. Then we got to come home, read in bed, and I didn't have anywhere to be early this morning. I love weekends.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


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Blue Planet

Jeff and I just watched this incredible show called Blue Planet. Produced by the BBC, it explores all the different areas of the oceans and all the unique and interesting animals found there. Tonight was "The Deep," exploring the depths of the ocean up to a mile down. There are these jelly fish that are totally clear, but light up as their cilia move, small spaceships moving through the expanse of blue. Some of them have these intricate webs that trail behind them to catch prey, some of them up to 40 meters long (i.e. 150 feet for those who prefer the English system of measurement.) Way down in the depths, where no sunlight filters, whole communities of organisms live by vents which release hydrogen sulfides. Bacteria then use this to make energy (the same way plants use sunlight to make energy) and all the other creatures are able to live off the energy produced by the bacteria.

Some of the fish down there have such huge teeth they can never even close their mouths. Apparently, every time there is a dive down to the depths of the ocean, a new species is discovered. I wonder how many more interesting creatures are out there that God made for us to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"I do" and $20 back in cash please.

Strange happenings in life at the Credit Union lately. Today we had a wedding in the branch. Yes, you read that right, a wedding in the branch. One of the tellers got married to her boyfriend right there in the extra office. The head teller officiated, two other tellers and the branch manager served as witnesses. Sadly I was refinancing a 2006 corvette for a guy with a midlife crisis in my office, so I didn't get to watch. There was plenty of extra cake, though. The head teller made a pound cake and brought fruit topping of some sort.

It was all a bit odd. I didn't know whether it was exciting, or whether is was sad. I think it was a bit of both. I don't think it was the girls first marriage, and they had been dating for like 5 years or so, and had a little bun in the oven, so they didn't really want much fanfare. And very little fanfare was just what they got. Although all we in the bank were quite excited and worked it up a bit, with some white ribbon and a "Great Love Songs from the 80's" cd. On the bright side they both had the afternoon off.

Shortly after the wedded bliss, a fellow came in stark raving mad, because someone's been taking money out of his account, and wait till he gets his hands on whoever it is... yada yada yada. Anyway, a short investigation turned up several reciepts with his signature on them, and he sheepishly remembered making the withdrawals. How many times over could I repeat this story, such is life at the bank.