Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kairos

I believe I've written about this before, especially since I see I have a tag labeled "Kairos vs Chronos," but the topic has come up again at work over the last few weeks. Illness and death are devastating at any time, particularly poignant over a holiday. A car accident with traumatic brain injury and death on Thanksgiving takes on more baggage than had it been on a Thursday evening in the middle of August. Forever in the minds of those that remember, that death will be associated with Thanksgiving and grief will add another layer to the day. But really, don't we still associate the major events of our lives by the calendar divisions we've imposed on time? And, won't grief have a place at the table on Thanksgiving no matter when the accident occurred?

My daughter was born a week before Halloween. My mother-in-law died the Sunday before Mother's Day, my brother on Memorial Day weekend. We use holiday celebratory events as markers to divide the long, rolling expanse of time into bite-size morsels in order to make sense of it in our human sized brains.

We presently have a patient in our unit, an older gentleman, who while tinkering in the garage workshop he loved had the worst headache of his life preceding a large bleed in his brain and has profound damage to all the areas that allow him to interact with the world. The family agrees he would not want to live like this, nor would he want to be sustained in the shell of his body in a nursing home. They agree on hospice care. What they cannot do is to turn the case over to hospice due first to the new year, then a family member's birthday and not wanting Grandpa's death to taint the memory of those days.

The definition I found of Kairos is "a time in between, a moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens." Coming from the perspective of Catholic school education I understand it to be God's time. I see it in my mind as the road you see running alongside the expressway, parallel, but never intersecting, its inhabitants moving at at separate speed to a separate destination yet both roads in full view of one another.



I remain amazed that we as humans feel we really have any control over time other than making marks with colored pens in black outlined boxes on the surface of a calendar. And yet, we do. It's a bit like putting a fence up in the desert, but it does keep us busy sweeping.

7 comments:

  1. Beautifully said and so true. It is not our time to choose.

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  2. This has been on my mind so much recently due to many people in blogland that have died suddenly around the holidays....you are so right.. in every way.

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  3. The death of my best friend's daughter is indelibly etched in my brain. It wasn't any special date, though it is now. It was a Tuesday night in late October that I'll never forget. A young man made a decision to speed around the college campus and engage in an argument with his girlfriend on his cell phone. Now, nobody's life is the same. Spring is kind of OK. So is summer. But the entire dying season, beginning with September, is to this day, 5 years later, shrouded in grief. Nothing will ever be the same for my friend. How could it be?

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  4. God's time . . . something I must remind myself about every day, but my willful little self keeps thinking I have some measure of control. I have a hard head, and I do hope I keep it out of your unit, but if it ends up there, I'm glad you'll be there. :)

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  5. What a deep reflection on time and mortality. Beautifully written.

    My Hubs tells me his stories of hospice patients and unexpected deaths. Being in your field gives you a truly separate perspective.

    Thank you for visiting my blog.

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  6. While I greatly appreciate your selections from other writers, I always love when you share your own writing, so gifted.

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  7. My family specializes in memorializing holidays with deaths. My sister died on my birthday. My father had a stroke on Valentine's Day and died on Fourth of July. My mother had a car accident on Valentine's Day and died on Labor Day. The baby I lost was due on Memorial Day.

    As for the meaning of time, I have a sense the past, present, and future all exist at once in our consciousness, like ingredients in a delicious stew. Enlightenment comes when we can savor the whole without picking through the components.

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Hey, thanks for your thoughts and your time:>)