Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taking one for the team.

The Original Clippers Fan

Okay, I'll bite.

I haven't really known what to say about that super-unfortunate private-turned-public conversation capturing these offensive and odd statements from the Clippers Owner, Don Sterling. I have a lot of thoughts but they all just sort of run together. I guess I'll say them quickly because this topic is salient and is worth talking about.

I don't like what he said. I don't really think I felt deeply offended, though, until he made the references to clothing and housing the blacks employed by him. The rest of it mostly sounded stupid and like it wasn't meant for our ears. Clearly the man is ignorant. As is this woman for putting up with him even for two seconds. Look: I'm old enough to realize that there are people all over the place that would take issue with a key person in their life being photographed on social media with groups of people of whom they do not approve. Or that they allegedly approve of but the others in their world don't approve of. For Donald Sterling, that group was black people. Or "the minorities" as his lady friend called them. Whatever. And some folks don't care about stuff like that at all. But a lot do.

It might be wrong and ignorant and deplorable but it is what it is.

With part of her Season Ticket crew. Their hashtag is #blackandyellow (Not joking)

Look. I'm just saying that if some mom somewhere is mad because her daughter is on Facebook with a group of hippie dudes while in college and says something about it because the other moms in her tennis club are giving her grief, is that kind of the same?

Maybe. Maybe not.

I don't know. I just know that a lot of folks say and think a lot of things that aren't meant for my ears. I heard someone say this: "What would you be banned from if your private conversations were made public?" 

Okay. I guess I'm kind of proud to say that I don't think I'd be banned from anywhere. But that's beside the point.

Her man had to become a fan as a part of the courtship.

Now. Despite all THAT, I am not excusing him. Because we DID hear it and it IS public. And more than likely we never heard the worst of it. If this chick was able to record him -- and knew to record him -- she also must have known for certain that he'd say some off the wall crap worth pressing record for. Hello? This means to me that this dude is likely saying all kinds of stuff about "the minorities." Matter of fact, he's been noted to say a few not-so-nice words about black people before. 

Mmm hmmmm.

I mean, I personally see myself as a delicate woman even if he doesn't think my persuasion can be. Heh.

The main thing:

How much does this suck for the Clippers--and their fans? These dudes have put in work, man. Work. Talk about going from zeroes to heroes. And this? Now? Just. . . damn.

She has warm and cold weather Clipper gear.

My sister, JoLai, is one of the original Clipper fans. I'm dead serious. She's been a season ticket holder for 13+ years and bought them way back when half of L.A. wasn't even sure who they were. I think I even asked if they were a hockey team back then.


Why yes, that IS Chris Paul next to her.

But seriously. JoLai bought those season tickets back when they were buy one ticket get twenty five free. Plus free parking. And a guaranteed t-shirt out of the air gun thingie. She has been down from the start. And is a HUGE fan of this team.


Imagine her devastation when this happened. Her team has finally started to get some shine and this bulljive comes out? Dude. Those players are like her family now. And trust me, she was literally heart broken. Someone wise said something like this about her:  It's like paying and planning for a huge party and finding out that you can't go like two days before. Or worse--you got locked out of the venue.


Oh and before I forget. JoLai is such a HUGE and LEGIT Clipper Nation member that she was the epicenter of an article in the Los Angeles Times yesterday--specifically about her perspective as an African-American season ticket holder in this hot mess of a situation. It's a great article. Read it here. It tells it far better than I can.

What you know about a Clippers manicure?

Funny. When I tried to find the article, I saw that JoLai has been mentioned in the L.A. Times as a Clipper fan several times. Even as far back as 2001 when I still thought they were a hockey team. Ha! Now if that ain't legit you tell me what is?

I guess a part of me is mourning her loss in all of this. It's like watching someone train over a decade for the Boston Marathon and seeing them trip, fall and get knocked unconscious on mile 25. Even if you weren't the one running, it stills sucks.

Got pajama pants?

Okay. So . . . . I haven't drawn any hard lines in the sand. I do still think human beings are mostly good and don't want this to be seen as some evidence that all white people really hate us. I don't believe that. I just don't. Instead, I think some people are ignorant and products of environmental small mindedness. Which is sad but also their mental block.

You know what?

I also think this is one of those things that I would have been fine to never, ever know about. Kind of like the person who comes and confesses to her husband that she cheated on him sixteen years ago. I mean, I'm sure some good race relations discussions will come from it, but honestly? I just don't want to be in a world where inner thoughts are being made outer thoughts. I don't want them shoved in my face or stuffed down my throat. If you look at me and think "ignorant black person" or "person beneath me" -- please. Keep it in your head and on your dark, cold heart. Spare me. I mean it.

I can also pass on the selfies of Geraldo Rivera. But that's a whole 'nother hot mess and besides the point.

Sorry for the ramble. I just kind of don't know what to do with this. I seriously don't. And I wish we could just sort of turn back time and let the Clippers have their moment in the spotlight without being pummeled by tomatoes.

JoLai? I'm sorry you had to take one for the team. And even sorrier that, for you, it involved more than just your favorite basketball one.

That's all I got. 

Happy Wednesday. And shout out to my delicate sister Darlene JoLai aka the original Clippers fan.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Habitual Reflection and moments in time.

"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."

~ James Baldwin


I just returned from the National Meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM.) This year it was held down in San Diego and was a really networky-academic-general-medicine-nerdy good time. I've been to the SGIM meeting several times over the years, but admittedly, this was one of the larger turnouts from my recollection. From Emory alone we had close to fifty people--maybe even more--all of whom presented workshops and posters and sat on committees and panels and just did great and important things.

And some just soaked up the energy. Which is cool, too.

This year for me was mostly a year of soaking up energy. Usually I'm running all around making last minute tweaks on a presentation or scurrying over to judge a poster. But this year? I simply attended. Well. Unless you count being on the list of authors for an oral case presentation which really was 100% effort-driven by one of our amazing residents. Otherwise, I was just a spectator.

Which, for me, was just fine this year.

Presenting a workshop at SGIM last year

Anyways. I left that meeting with a lot on my mind. Not because things that most would define as earth shattering  happened but more because now that I habitually reflect on all that I live, far more in my life is of good report. Does that even make sense? Sigh. I don't know.


Some birds I met while running on the waterfront Thursday

Well. Speaking of this idea of habitual reflection--or even "mindfulness" as some like to call it. . . . I'm reminded of a conversation I had during the meeting with one of my residency classmates, Rachel S.

"I think writing and reflecting helps us to see the power and magic of the seemingly ordinary, you know? That 'boring' patient has a story."

"Yeah. There are stories all around us. Everywhere."

Then I told her about the day I watched a woman crossing the street to the bus stop with her children. This otherwise mundane event that this habit of reflection caused me to behold with different eyes. And then write about it. The story in it, the pain in it, and ultimately the beauty and triumph in it.

"It's weird," I told her. "That piece of writing ["Little Mama"] is one I go back to reread probably more than any other. And I know that had it happened ten years ago, I would have never even noticed it."

And Rachel's eyes filled with tears because she understood. She also knew of the walk my family has taken since losing Deanna and she remembered. Even though we hadn't seen each other in one full year (at the last SGIM meeting) it was evident in her eyes that she recalled and she got it. Got how life opens up and becomes richer when we allow ourselves to be more aware of the little things.

I should mention that Rachel leads writing and narrative medicine workshops at her institution in Denver, Colorado. She's my kind of people and just so. . . present and intentional. So that part--talking to Rachel and thinking with her--was really good.


So then there was this other part of this SGIM meeting that I also loved. Remember when I went up to be a "visiting profesora" at University of Pittsburgh? Well during that amazing visit, those folks up there embraced me in a way that I never even saw coming. I mean, yes, my good friend Shanta Z. is there and they know and love her. But mostly that means that they should just have been polite and welcoming--which, of course, they were. That said, they've also gone above and beyond that. Ever since that visit, their faces are warm and happy to see me when our paths cross. Familiar and easy. Hugs instead of handshakes and my favorite part is that the ones that I didn't even formally meet while I was there are the same way. Kind of like "a friend of Shanta's is a friend of ours." Many even started off with, "I feel like I know you." And that? That's just awesome. I mean really and truly awesome.

Pittsburgh people

One of the people I met up in Pittsburgh was this woman named Missy M. Missy is this unbelievably talented, committed and infectiously loving clinician educator who has committed her career to medical education and women's health. It came as no surprise to those who know her when she was tapped on the shoulder to be the Distinguished Professor of Women's Health at this year's meeting. That meant a keynote address which I made it my business to attend.

A blurry selfie with Missy M.

Her talk was aptly titled "Life Lessons Learned." And let me tell you--it was nothing short of transformative. She stood up there and shared her truth. About being a woman taking care of women. About teaching. About self care. About being a mom. About the things that really matter. And all of it was was magical. It was.

When they called for questions, usually it's a bit intimidating to take that microphone and speak. But I did ask one. but I especially made sure to stand up and publicly say, "Congratulations on being asked to do this. You are truly deserving of this honor and have blessed us all with your wise words." And she needed to hear that because we all know how pesky that little voice can be that tries to rob us of accolades and honors and replace them with feelings of being tiny and undeserving imposters.


Standing ovation after Missy's talk

So Missy gave the hell out of that keynote and I was there in the number when we stood to our feet to applaud. And even though I am not at her institution, I felt like she was one of my own and like I was a part of some different, insiders crew. Mostly because of how people like Missy and her Pittsburgh colleagues have treated me.

Missy doing a mystery case--and killing it.

So yeah, that was great. It was.

Yesterday I slipped into the back of the room as one of my Grady BFFs presented an update on hepatology. I've talked about Lesley M. and her trailblazing heart-work with Hepatitis C. And please, if you've never read that post, please take a minute to right that wrong. So she and our other fellow Grady doctor Shelly-Ann F. spoke to a standing room only crowd. Or rather standing, sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall room only crowd. They were unbelievably polished, knowledgeable and just. . . inspiring. I remember when that idea of general internists treating patients with hepatitis C was embryonic and just a pie-in-the-sky idea. And this? This was a full circle moment of seeing what happens when people dream big and then go hard.

Update on Hepatology with Lesley M. and Shelly-Ann F.

My favorite line was what Shelly-Ann said after:

"I was very, very proud of us. I could feel that we were doing a great job and sharing good information and I'm so proud." 

And that was an awesome line because that's exactly what she should have been feeling.

Yep. So that was rad. Like super rad.

Of course, there was also the fun I always have each year at these meetings when I share a hotel room with my other Grady BFF, Stacy H. It always feels like this slumber party where we lie in our opposing beds whispering like middle schoolers. There's the parts like chatting while doing our hair and putting on make-up or pulling out contact lenses and all that kind of stuff. But in the midst of it we also nudge each other professionally and explore the "what next" parts of our careers as academic physicians. And all of that is wonderful, too. It really is.

me and my nerdy-meeting roomdog, Stacy H.

But I guess the last thing I wanted to reflect on was perhaps the one that has stayed on my mind most of all. Maybe because it almost felt spiritual. . . or even divinely appointed. And yes, I know that everyone reading here isn't fully on board with the idea of things being "divinely appointed" per se, but I do know that even those in this community who don't follow any organized religion can fully appreciate these moments that you just know will feed your soul and stay with you for a long, long time.

So yeah. Kind of like that.

I had just made my way into the poster session in one of the large ballrooms yesterday. For those who aren't familiar, at these meetings a big part of it is a competition of research posters that people put together from their hospitals and residency programs. There are literally rows and rows of bulletin boards with bright-eyed and bushy-tailed presenters standing beside them poised and ready to discuss their good work. The picture above is a lot like what these sessions are like at national meetings. This one was packed to the gills with not only posters and presenters--but people. I'm sure I won't be the first to say that it can all be a bit overwhelming to take in all at once.

I was mostly coming to see the Emory resident and faculty posters, but had also hoped to peruse a few that caught my eye and also locate my friend Rachel S. (who I knew was somewhere in that vast expanse.)

Pittsburgh peeps during poster session last year

 Anyways. In I wander and, of course, am bumping into folks and craning my neck to try to see if I noted any familiar faces. I snaked up and down the aisles, stopped to ask a few questions about intriguing posters, and visited with a few of our Emory people. Every other step required me to apologize for either nearly running someone over or mistaking them for the wrong person. As I said, it can be kind of overwhelming.

One of our Emory chief residents, Megan D.

After about twenty minutes or so, I noted a smiling red head next to a board that I recognized. Rachel! Yes. I was excited partly because I'd finally found her but also because I had some ideas for collaboration for next year that I wanted to chat about. We'd seen each other in passing but had neglected to exchange numbers so I was pretty anxious to find her before leaving San Diego.

I prepared myself to elbow through the crowd and bee-line it over to her poster before I missed my opportunity. Just before scooting up the aisle, for some reason I glanced toward the door on my left leading to the lobby area. Amidst that sea of people and noise, my eyes briefly met those of this slender, young black woman. We gave one another "the nod" but that wasn't where it ended. She held my gaze for a few seconds while pushing through the door. I smiled deliberately in her direction to let her know the thing we all want to know: 

I see you.

It was clear to me that she wasn't a faculty level attendee. Her wide eyes and youthful face assured me that she was still in training--either a senior medical student or a pretty junior resident. In that second, I felt this really intense thought. And I swear to you--as sure as I sit as this computer and type these words--I heard these words as clear as day:

"She needs to talk to you. That learner--she needs you."

My eyes cut over to Rachel for just a split second so that I could make a mental note of her location. But in that miniscule slice of time, I looked back to that door and just like that, that smiling stranger was gone. I felt this complex disappointment with the universe for robbing me of that moment and myself for looking away and squandering it. Grrrr. And I know this sounds crazy--especially because that entire exchange took only 4 seconds MAX--but it's true.

See, I knew from other experiences that it's my job to take notice and be obedient when these "one moment in time" things come before me. And that? That's what that felt like.

Anyways. I turned back to my original intention and headed over to Rachel. And we connected and talked as I told you before and all of that was good. So good that I pretty much let myself stop thinking about that brown girl with the big eyes and that missed opportunity.

Besides. I told myself that it would have been weird to say, "Hi, I know you don't know me but something is telling me that I need to come talk to you. And that you need to talk to me." Which seriously would have been creepy and stalkery on so, so many levels. So yeah. I told myself that-- which allowed me to toss it aside and not give it much more airplay.

Later that afternoon, I was sitting at a round table with a big group of my colleagues from the Southern Region. We were all relaxed and simply recapping the various workshops and run-ins people had. Old friends talking to old friends. New friends talking to new friends. And a lot of things in between. Feet propped up on chairs. Professional attire now exchanged for blue jeans, flip flops and fleece jackets embroidered with the names of our various institutions. And that part was cool, too.

So I was leaning on my elbow yucking it up with with some fellow Grady doctors and I notice Shelly-Ann (the other Grady liver lady) walking in my direction. Her head is up and her shoulders are squared and I can tell that she's still giddy from their rockstar hepatology session earlier that day. And since there were five trillion people rushing them after their talk and I didn't get a chance to congratulate her, I jumped up to my feet as she approached me to tell her how great they'd done. So she smiled ear to ear and we hugged and spent a few moments basking in all of that.

I guess I was so focused on Shelly-Ann that I didn't even notice the person standing right behind her.

"Kim, I actually brought someone over that I wanted to introduce to you."

And, as you can already imagine, she steps aside and up walks that same woman that I saw in the poster session earlier that morning. And you know? I didn't even hide my elation that she was in front of me. I didn't. Instead of sticking out my hand when Shelly Ann made the introduction, I reached out and hugged her. Like I meant it and like I'd meant to do it before.

And she did the exact same thing.

Now. Let me be clear. Before I saw her in that hall, I'd never seen her before in my life. And from what I learned, she, too, had never seen or met me either. No, she wasn't some reader of this blog who'd seen my quirky writings and photos and linked them to me. And you know what? When I saw her that first time, I knew that. I knew that it wasn't some "where do I know you from" glance or "hey, that's the lady who writes the Grady blog" look. I knew deep down in my soul that it was something else.

So Shelly-Ann simply tells me that she just felt like this resident should meet me and had taken it upon her self to escort her right in front of me. Not because she'd pointed me out and asked Shelly-Ann either. But because somehow Shelly-Ann, too, was in cahoots with the universe and this magnetic pull for us to make acquaintance.

"I saw you earlier," I told her. "You looked at me and I swear something inside of me said, 'That woman needs to talk to me. We need to talk to each other.' I know it sounds crazy, but I swear it's true. Do you remember seeing me?"

Her already wide eyes widened some more. I could see that they were already glistening with tears from hearing what I said. She nodded her head.

"We were supposed to meet. I felt bad when you got away from me--honestly, I did. I can't even tell you how happy I am to have you standing in front of me." And I told her that because it was true. I wanted her to know that this was important to me and that she was worth my time.

"I. . .I felt like that, too. Like. . .I don't know. . .like I wanted to talk to you just from that glance. It's not just you."

And so. We sat down and we talked. I listened to what it was like for her as a resident and also specifically a resident of color in a high-powered majority environment. I let her know that I knew how she felt and talked to her about always remembering who she is. But mostly I just heard her and encouraged her. I reminded her of Abileen's mantra--not through words but through eyes, ears and heart.

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

Yes. That.

And you know? That brown girl broke down crying. Right then and there in that lobby area in our quiet little area where we'd stolen away to talk. And her tears were so layered yet so familiar. Not so much sad but just . . .I don't know. . . .relieved and empowered. And I swear to you, it fed my soul probably more than it did hers.

"I don't even know how to thank you," she sniffled. "I just . . .I needed that so much. . .and I just don't even know how to tell you how much. So thank you." And when she said that, she wept some more.

I told her that the way to thank Shelly-Ann and me and all of the other women she'd met that week was to be excellent and pay it forward. She nodded her head and promised she would.

"Oh, and to constantly pay attention. Don't take your eyes away because you might miss the chance to do what you're supposed to be doing."

And she knew that I was referring to her getting away from me in that ballroom earlier. But I also think both of us knew that somehow, some way the things that are supposed to happen somehow do. Even if it seems like we missed the chance--sometimes that second chance makes what you do even more powerful and more meaningful. Kind of like. . .I don't know. . . .it affirms what first just felt like a tiny nudge as something more . . .and as something so, so much greater than it or you.


So we exchanged numbers. And I know that I will hear from her and be in touch with her. I will. And we will continue remind one another of who we are and what we can do with just one moment in time.


So that? That just explains a few tiny morsels of the rich slice of my life over the last few days. And I am seeing it and feeling it and embracing it all. The ordinary, the extraordinary, the all of it--forcing from it each and every drop I can taste.


This cappucino made me happy

"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."

~ James Baldwin

Thank you for reading, okay? I mean that.

So cool! With my former chief resident from residency, Mimi S.

Happy Saturday.

Super corny yes, but now playing on my mental iPod. . . . the song that has always made me wish I could sing. Ha.

And this--worth viewing again. . . . my Grady BFF Lesley M. on Hepatitis C. #superproud

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I approve this message.

Overheard the other day amongst a large group of kids playing tag:

Kid: Zack, you're so retarded!

Zachary:  (stops) Wait. What did you just say to me?

Kid:  Dude. I said you're retarded.

Zachary:  (scowls and shakes his head)  Dude. Seriously? Retarded? Not even cool to say that word like that. So not cool, dude.

Kid:  What? Retarded?

Zachary: Yeah, man. Not okay. And so not cool.

Kid:  Gosh. I was just playing.

Zachary:  Yeah. Well, don't play like that.

Kid:  Okay, I'm sorry. Hey! I think the girls are getting away!

Zachary: No they're not! Let's get 'em!

Both kids run off screaming. While I secretly feel like my chest might explode with pride.

Happy Wednesday.

That made me think of this. Shout out to Oliver, who's Elizabeth's son.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The tears of a clown.

Now if there's a smile on my face
It's only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that's quite a different subject
But don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I'm sad, oh sadder than sad
You're gone and I'm hurting so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad
Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around

from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles


"Why Judge Joe Brown got to talk like he reading off one them teleprompters? The-verdict-is-for-the-plain-tiff."

I laughed out loud when my patient said that. Not because his Judge Joe Brown observation was the funniest thing ever, but just because he was funny. Effortlessly so. He was just one of those people with humor shut up in his bones that just had to get out. His intonation, his mischievous expression, and just the timing of how he said things always induced laughter from any and every person around. And real laughter, too. Not just those obligatory giggles you give pseudo-funny people. My patient was hilarious--even when he wasn't trying to be. Although most times, funny was his intention.

"Judge Joe always look like he don't even want to be there, don't he?" He shook his head and laughed at his own observation. "Just look at him sitting there all mad and constipated-looking. He act like it's court-ordered, don't he?"

And me, I chuckled again because it had never occurred to me that Judge Joe Brown's staccato voice could be likened to someone badly reading flashcards nor had I noticed how his surly smirk could be mistaken for reluctance. This was what made talking to my patient so much fun. He always managed to point out the funny quirks of every day things which made caring for his not-so-everyday diagnosis just a little bit easier.

"What do you think about Judge Judy? She's my mom's favorite."

He narrowed his eyes and jutted out his bottom lip. It was so animated that I knew something funny would be coming next. "Oh, see, I couldn't go on Judge Judy's show. Naaaaahhh, not me."

I was already smiling back at him in anticipation. "I don't even want to ask why." 

"Maaaaan! You heard the way that lady be cutting folks off and going off before they even get a word in edgewise? Shoot, talk about catching a case! I'd be done jumped over that podium like a wildcat at that lady!"

"Oh no! You'd assault Judge Judy?"

"Naaw, doc. It wouldn't even get to that. 'Cause you know that black dude that stand on the side woulda had to put down his magazine long enough to try to stop me. Then, you know, me and dude would be scuffling on the ground and instead of me getting a $500 judgement I'll end up with a $5000 bail. See? Ain't even worth it."

He loved making me laugh and I loved egging him on. All of it was great. "That's a funny image."!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_1200/tv-judge-judy.jpg

"Okay. Real talk, though, Miss Manning. Real talk." Now he feigned a serious face. I folded my arms and twisted my mouth, knowing what he'd say would be anything but. "I would never, ever try to hurt ol' Judy. You know that about me, right?"

"I do know that about you, sir."

"But I would grab that doily-looking thang from 'round her neck. Now that I would do!"

We both erupted into fluffy laughs all over again and it was all easy and light.

But. His issues weren't. They weren't easy or light at all.

I gently waded into the purpose of my visit. "Mr. Floyd? Did they already take you down for the test?"

"Yeah, they did. And some lady with a soft voice but some man hands was the one who helped me get on the table. You ever seen a lady with the man hands? All pretty in the face but then hands big and muscular like she been chopping wood?" He shuddered like he was terrified.

"Oh wow. I sure hope I don't have the man hands, Mr. Floyd." I couldn't help but pause to laugh at that term "man hands." He seemed glad that I did. "Did it go okay, though? Your procedure?"

"I thank so. They said they got what they needed. And ol' Man Hands seemed satisfied."

I pressed my lips together and then sat down next to his bed on the nearby chair. His room was unusually barren. Not a single flower, card or balloon was there, even though he'd been with us for at least four days. When I asked him earlier about family, he brushed the question off saying that he mostly does for himself.

"Everybody needs somebody," I recall saying.

"But not everybody want to be needed," he quickly countered.

And what could you say to that?

The test he had confirmed the worst. Disease far more advanced than our medicine could handle. And even though we explained that part and told him of the things that could be done to improve his symptoms, he continued to crack jokes and keep things light instead of wrestling with the unpleasant facts before him.

"What do they do with somebody that pass but don't have money for a funeral?"

"Pardon?" That question surprised me. Even though he was going home with hospice care, I still didn't expect him to say that.

"I'm gon' call Willie Watkins' Funeral Home and see what kind of hook up I can get. Y'all don't have no coupons at Grady?"

This time my chuckle was less genuine. His words were funny, but mostly I felt sad. Sad that he was dying. Sad that he was talking about it like this. And even sadder that after four more days, there still wasn't any evidence that a loved one would be coming to his side.

"Mr. Floyd? I will be thinking about you a lot, okay? And I promise to never forget you, sir." That's what I said instead. I needed him to know that part because it was true.

"I 'preciate that, Miss Manning."

"I wish you didn't have to go through this. I really do."

"I know. But man plans and God laughs, right? At least that's what my grandmama used to say."

The corner of my mouth turned upward in a half-hearted smile. That was all I had at the moment.

"But you know, Miss Manning? Laughing is how I get through. I hope I die with a big smile on my face, too. And that I die mid-breath telling a joke to somebody or playing the dozens."

And something about that image brought out inexplicable emotion in me. Tears rushed to my eyes and fell too fast for me to blink them away. I wiped my cheeks with the heels of my hand and shook my head feeling embarrassed. "Uggggh. I'm sorry, Mr. Floyd."

He reached for my hand and squeezed it. "Thanks, hear?"

I felt awful for making my patient feel like he had to console me. Wrapping my hand around his, I nodded and tried to smile. Mr. Floyd placed his other hand over mine and patted it gently. "You know what, Miss Manning?" He cast his eyes down at our hands and then looked up into mine. His eyes were glistening with tears, too.

"What's that, sir?"

"You don't have the man hands." The tears evaporated from his eyes just enough to leave his signature twinkle of mischief.

And that time?  I did laugh out loud. And so did he.

This? This is Grady.

Happy Tuesday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . . the song that always plays in my head when I think of him. They just don't make music like this anymore.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Can I get a witness?

First, a few random Easter musings. . .

Happy Easter, good people! It's a spectacular day in Georgia. A sky of the bluest blue, the grass has turned green, and the flowers are blooming in the most beautiful way. And considering how crappy our weather has been for the last several days, it's kind of nice to see that the sunshine got resurrected right along with Jesus.

Mmmm hmmm.

Despite a late night yesterday evening with the BHE, we still managed to make it to church in time to get the kids into children's church and still be able to sit in the main sanctuary. Everyone knows that the "CME" folks come out on Resurrection Sunday--that is, those who show up on Christmas, Mother's Day and Easter only. And you know? I'm not judging--I'm just saying, you know? If you want to sit in a chair in the main room at our church on Easter Sunday? You'll need to arrive early.

For reals.

Here's something super funny and random. At our church, they specifically ask us to dress ultra casual on Easter Sunday because they don't want folks to feel compelled to go spend a bunch of money that they don't have on suits, dresses and the like. It's obvi who got the memo and who didn't. So today it was like this dichotomous mish-mash dress code in the sanctuary: A lady in a pastel linen suit complete with ginormous hat right beside a young adult with blue jeans, a t-shirt and some vans. A man in some wingtips next to a girl in flip flops.

Okay, maybe not flip flops, but still. Super casz. The whole thing provided me great amusement, especially the looks on the faces of people when they realized they were terribly overdressed. (I admit, I felt kind of bad for the kids, though.) As for my kids? I assure you, they were EXTRA dusty and extra casual this week. Even dustier and casual-er than the Palm Sunday service last week--which is when these plaid shirt photos were snapped. Just add in one more week worth of hair and extra ashy legs and you'll get the picture.


Dang. How sucky must it be to come in your brand spankin' new Easter outfit and get directed to the overflow room to watch a screen? Talk about a buzzkill. I mean. . .not being able to parade your outfit in front of the congregation sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Jusssssst kidding.

I don't know what it is about being banished to the overflow room that destroys any church service for me. In this day of modern technology, you can watch an entire service on your laptop or iPad from the comfort of your bed. So someone routing me off to another room so that I can do (in church) what I could have been doing in bed puts my me in the wrong mindset. Yeah, yeah, I know the fellowship part is biblical, but I'm just being honest, man. The overflow room waters down my fellowship fuzzies. But that's a NON-ISSUE seeing as I indeed secured one of the last seats.

I was all like:

Umm, let's see? What else? Did I tell y'all about the day that Zachary's teacher told me that for "show and tell" he decided to demonstrate "the happy church dance" to his class? He saw someone at church getting filled with the spirit and dancing--so he took it upon himself to let them see it, too.

Kind of like your regular show and tell, but like a more. . .uhh. . . active version. And kind of like this lady, but like, Zachary doing it instead. And kind of like the congregation you see clapping but a bunch of first graders instead.

I still have no idea how to feel about that little report.

Uhhhh. . .yeah.

What other random things am I thinking of? Oh. Yes. This:

Virtual church is a trip, man. What I'm talking about is how you can watch just about any fairly large church from the web or listen via podcasts with such ease now. Even though my church membership is in one place, thanks to the internet, I totally feel like a member of more than one church. So, like I GO to my church. But I download podcasts and do all my long runs to Andy Stanley's church and follow each series. . . like. . .religiously.  

Mmm hmm.

Yeah. We used to call it "Bedside Baptist" when we missed service on Sunday. In fact, the exchange used to go like this:

"Did you make it to 9:30 service today?"

"Naaah. I went to Bedside Baptist."

"Ooohhh, yeah! I know that church! With Reverend Pillow, right?"

"Yup. And Deacon Sheets."


But now with technology, you can be under the covers with headphones and an iPad mini or in your kitchen with a MacBook open watching the entire 9:30 service. There's even a space to take notes and a button to click and give an offering. Crazy, right?

So now I guess that exchange could also go like this:

"Did you make it to 9:30 service to day?"

"Yeah. But I was at the satellite location with Minister MacBook." 

"Oh, okay. I went to 7:15 with Evangelist iPad." 

"You should checkout Pastor Podcast when you get a minute. He's good, too."

Bwaah ha ha. Whew! Dang I'm witty.

Uh oh. 

Is it bad to be letting y'all in on my naughty secrets like this? Probably. But oh well. #dontjudgeme


Okay. So. . . actually none of that has anything to do with my original purpose for this post. Which I may have forgotten altogether with all that random rambling. . . .

Errrrrr. . . .

Oh! Yes. Okay, y'all. So in the spirit of Easter which, for me, is one of the most spiritual days of the year, I started thinking about some of my religious experiences at Grady Hospital. I always say that Grady feels like a ministry--and in all ministries, some days you are serving, other days you are getting served, or a lot of times, you're just bearing witness to it all. You know? Regardless of what you believe, I think we can all appreciate a spiritual experience. And at Grady, those happen all the time.

There's this word that is used a lot in Christian faith. It's an everyday word that's usually a noun, but when turned into a verb, the meaning changes. That word is "witness." See, to most, a witness is someone who saw something. But when used as a verb, witnessing means telling or showing someone what you've experienced. Some of my most memorable moments at Grady Hospital have come from those times where I've seen someone witnessing.

And nobody witnesses like the Grady elders. Here is the most magical of those times that I've ever experienced. Many of you will remember this story, reposted or rather resurrected from a 2011 post. But today, especially, I hope you'll revisit it.

The Grady chapel

Grady Hospital, November 2011

Working at Grady is like working in another little special country sometimes. There are things that are part of our normal here that in other places would seem odd or unusual. These are the things that make me love working at Grady so much.

On Monday the clinic was pretty busy. We finally wrapped up the last patient for that session, and at about 12:40, I sprinted down the stairwell and trucked through the hall on my way to get some food. I had only twenty minutes before being expected back so my brisk walk turned into a jog.  I waved to passersby and chuckled when a gentleman said in that very Grady way "Don't run nobody over, Doc!"

Purse on my shoulder, white coat on and heels clicking on the linoleum. . . .in quest of the Monday special at Subway and hoping the line wouldn't be horrible when I got there.  Just as I reached the E elevator area which is just before my turn to get out of the door, I heard something that made me slow down.

What is that?

I furrowed my brow, stood still and listened for a moment. That's when I figured it out. It was the voice of an aged male. . . singing at the TOP of his lungs. And weirdly it wasn't at the TOP of his lungs in a mentally ill or obnoxious way, either. It was in this way that seemed reminiscent of what it must have been like for folks picking cotton out in fields or scrubbing their floors on Saturdays. Not a performance type voice either. Just this loud and proud and unashamed voice bellowing out a Negro spiritual. . . .


I eased toward where the voice was coming from and laid eyes on the singer--an elderly African-American man appearing to be nearing his ninth decade. He was holding a cane and coat over his arm, and had simply decided to close his eyes, throw his head back and break out in song while waiting for the Grady elevator.

There were easily twenty people waiting in the vestibule with him. And you know what? None of them seemed the least bit fazed by this occurrence. Not the least bit.  In fact, several of them offered shouts of praise -- not to him per se, but those shouts that you hear in black churches after the first few stanzas of any gospel song-- meant not for the singer but technically for God.

He kept going in his wobbly voice:


I smiled as I watched,  taking it all in.  Then something even GRADY-er happened.  A woman that appeared to be no more than five years older or younger than this man JOINS IN with him. Yes! Joins in singing the same song equally as loud has he!  And they didn't even appear to know each other! She just came up beside him, lifting one hand to the heavens and not even really looking at him. But she was on his page most definitely. . . .her gravelly voice belting out through the corridor in that same unabashed tone. . .still punctuated by shouts of affirmation from others nearby.

And so in unison they continued:


It was absolutely beautiful.  Beautiful on so many levels, I tell you. Beautiful for me because, yes, I'm a believer, but beautiful beyond that, too. Here were two strangers -- both African-American elders -- who had surely lived through being spit at, called "boy" or "gal" and "nigger" or "nigra" and referred to collectively as "coloreds."  Who, if they were Georgians, had lived through a gubernatorial campaign with the motto "NO, NOT ONE!" for the leading candidate who promised to never let one--NO!Not one!--black child integrate a school in Georgia. (That candidate won by a landslide.)

They knew of a "White Grady" and a "Colored Grady" . . . a world with air conditioning on one side and open windows with flies and sweltering temperatures on the other.  Told that one of them equaled 2/3 a man and for this reason stood in protest with signs pleading with the world what should have been evident -- "I AM A MAN." They sat in the backs of buses and entered through back entrances. Withstood teenage boys with pink twisted snarls speaking to them like they were children just because of some false superiority in their skin color. Forced to say yes'm or no'suh to these same KIDS, despite the fact that they were young enough to be put over a knee. Or worse withstood poisonous words from the mouths of young adults that they themselves had raised.

And yet. Despite all of that, here they stood.  Strangers. Singing. . .still singing from the depths of their guts these simple words:

"I won't complain."

I didn't cry then. At the time it hadn't fully sunk in so I just smiled and then went on my way. But later on as I was driving home I thought about what they were singing and the sincerity in it. I let it sink in. . . the entire scene. . . . .and I did cry. Man, every time I imagined them and what they must have seen and lived through in their lifetimes more tears came. I felt so indebted to them.

Then I cried some more, feeling ashamed for the things I'd complained about that very day.

The Georgia governor who ran (and won) on the platform "No, Not One."

Source: Externe



This? This is Grady.

Happy Easter. May your good days outweigh your bad days, too.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . the EXACT rendition of the song they were singing that day. . .

This post is, hands down, one of my father's absolute favorites of all time. I just sat and listened to that song and those words again and relived that experience, hearing it as my father. His life is so different than it was when that post was originally written, but through his smile, his laugh and his love, he continues to witness just like these Grady elders.