Sunday, March 29, 2015

Home, at last!

This is my first Sunday home since my ordeal with my heart. On March 25, Brooks Schramm picked me up from the ManorCare rehab and brought me home. I was never so happy to be in my home again. Although I didn't want to go to do the rehab, I can say that it was helpful in returning home. While I am walking slowly, I can get around the house and go up and down the stairs. Psychologically, I feel a lot better. The most difficult part of my return is to know that I am dependent on family and friends to get things done. That is different for me. On Friday, Pat Pasqual came up from Alexandria and brought several items that she had cooked. On Saturday, my sister and Robert arrived from New York. The Payne-Pasqual team got to work on the kitchen. Hilda was supposed to come and clean on Friday morning, however, I didn't hear the bell when she arrived at the house at 9 AM. She will come on Tuesday.

Today is Palm Sunday. Pat left at about 8:30 AM. Jeanie, Robert and I went to Christ Chapel, Gettysburg College. It was good to be with the young people. This Holy Week is particularly special for me. I began the heart issue at the beginning of Lent and now I return home a few days before Passion Sunday.  Resurrection gives humankind hope; it will be paramount in my reflections and reading this week.

Tomorrow, I will begin dialysis at the Littlestown facility. Dr. G transferred me to Dr. Ayola. That will save a lot of time and gas. Going to York Hospital is 32 miles from Gettysburg....Littlestown is only 7 miles away...a big difference. My time will change, too. rather than the first thing in the morning (6:30 AM), I will be in Littlestown in the early evening (5:30 PM). Crump and Schramm have scheduled themselves to taking me to and from Littlestown.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Setback?

I have just returned from dialysis. With the other treatments I returned upbeat, this time, I'm down. Dr. G...., the nephrologist indicated that my kidneys have not kicked in as yet. I think he saw that I was upset and said that "You knew you were at stage 4." I responded by saying the issue was that I wanted to return home and thought that I would be able to continue treatments at the Littlestown dialysis center. That will take place but he still wants to monitor me at York hospital. That means that I am still in ManorCare Rehab. I just have to admit that I am angry and disappointed. I thought at least I would be transferred. He asked me about my output of urine and I said that I was urinating. I think I'll keep track on my own. The 24 hour test of urine last week indicated that my kidney's were functioning at about 15%. I certainly would like that to improve but that would be a miracle. I just have to be reminded of God's promise to be with us and specifically me. I haven't lot faith our God of Promise. Lord, have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Connections

I am beginning my 11th day at ManorCare Rehab. The time here has been helpful in making practical connections between my surgery, measured actions, and my life upon returning to my house. At this point, I know that I can manage at home with all of the support from close friends and family.

One of the interesting developments for me during this time of illness has been the connections with family and longimte friends. The telephone calls as well as the visits from family and friends reminded my how my life has been rooted in communal interaction. The depth of the relationships is more than I ever knew.  Charles and Carolyn Jackson, my friends from Cleveland, call me every evening to find out how I am. I received flowers and fruit decor from Gettyburg Seminary, Advent Lutheran Church (the parish I served in Cleveland), Weni from grad school, and Preston and Jean (from grad school). During the pre-op Michael Cooper-White, president of Gettysburg Seminary also came to visit.

I am trying to recall from family and friends but I cannot pinpoint the pre or post-op on the timeline. Jeanie and Robert (my sister and brother-in-law) came the weekend before my surgery and returned the weekend following my surgery. Ricky and Teri (cousin and wife), came to York after the  operation as well. I think that I grew up appreciating strong family ties. These ties certainly are important duirng this period of my life. Hearing from the younger generation in the family (Kianja, Kilolo, Marric, and Martez) reminds me that the Strobert family ties continue to be strong. Patricia Pasqual, my good and longtime friend, took the bus from DC to York to visit me one Saturday when I was in York Hospital.  Bob Musser a classmate who is a pastor in Fox Chapel, PA came to visit me as well. That was a 4 hour trip for a few minutes of conversation. My colleague, Leoanard Hummel stopped by ManorCare to visit me while I on his way to Gettysburg from Baltimore. I am overwhelmed by such gestures.

My Gettysburg connections are stronger than imagined. Anthony and Margaret are Nicastro have kept up with me pre and post op. They also have been able to take in my mail and give me practical advice. They brought me a hospital bag with toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, lotion, cotton tips etc. when I arrived at York Hospital. Crump, Schramm, and Stjerna continue to be an awesome trinity. Stjerna left for Bologne, Italy, a few days after the visit and will return with great cuisine ideas. I look forward to some of the Italian dishes she might prepare and share.

I go through my ups and down feelings but I have to say that the gospel continues to sustain me through the pre and post-operation issues. The gospel that calls us into "mutual conversation and consolation" continues nourish me. Peter Kuhn, Manager of Spiritual life and Education at York Hospital has been a true spiritual guide. Although we have been friends in Gettysburg, his pastoral side has been so helpful to me. He is a gift to public ministry. With Jospeh and Beverly Donnella, I have share good conversations with their visits. Beverley has brought me the eucharist which strengthens me through my ups and downs.  The communal Christian life is powerful. I have talked about the importance that being connected to the outside world has been for me with my iPhone and iPad. Participation in the eucharist has kept me connected with the church catholic. That gives me such strength and hope. In addition, knowing that there are friends and family who continue to pray for me sustains me. I am not in isolation.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Unexpected

It is now two weeks and one day since my open-heart surgery. Let me share the events of last three few weeks. I woke up with a pain in my chest at about 6 AM on Tuesday 24 February. I waited until Dr.  Miller's office opened and called to describe the pain. The nurse told me to go to the emergency room at Gettysburg hospital. Rather drive myself I called my friend Eric Crump and he was able to take me. I arrived late morning and after x-rays, EKG, etc. the doctor informed me that the issue was my heart and that I would have to go to York Hospital.  With that news I was taken by ambulance to York Hospital. On Thursday 5 March I had open-heart surgery. On March 12 I was transferred to ManorCare rehab center in York, PA. While I was disappointed that I was not returning directly home, I have benefitted from the occupational and physical therapy sessions. In addition to rehab, I also am on dialysis which began two days before my surgery. At this point, the doctor does not know whether I will continue to have dialysis. I'll just wait and see what the tests indicate.

I am impressed by the therapy team here at ManorCare. There are times when I'm not in a pleasant mood but their high energy and commitment to their vocations gets me smiling.

This time of hospitalization and rehab makes me reflect on various parts of life, my life and the church. My prayers times have me humming or reflecting on the words of familiar hymns reminding me of God's unfailing graciousness. In addition to meditating on the Romans 8:31ff texts, I have also used Letters and Papers from Prison of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Although I read the work many years ago, his remarks are helping me in this recuperation period of my life.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Paris Encore

This note as I wait at the gate 45 at Charles deGaulle airport in Paris. It was a good trip and as always, I already miss the city. There are several highlights from this visit including meeting my friend and colleague Brooks Schramm (Professor of Old Testament at Gettysburg Seminary) in Amsterdam. Usually we meet in Europe with Kirsi Stjerna (his wife), however, this year they had to take separate research trips in Europe. So, Brooks and I were on our own. The beer and wine were flowing.

In Amsterdam, I was able to finally get into the New Church. It was the place of the opening service of the Evangelical Alliance in 1867 and Daniel A. Payne was there. The last time I was in Amsterdam, the church was under renovation so I only had outside photos of the building. It is used for a variety of events. Presently, there is an exhibition on African masks and figures from the Ivory Coast. It was extensive and included a couple of films that elaborated on a technique or an artist. One can still see the nave of the church in the midst of the exhibition, so I took some photos of the inside. Brooks and I took the cruise around the waterways of Amsterdam. It was interesting with historical and cultural highlights of the city. Again, it was a good weekend trip.

I attended a Soirée on Sunday. The topic centered on terrorism in France from the Algerian crisis in the early 60s to the most recent attacks in Paris. He speaker was a retired Foreign Service officer. So he was a knowledgeable resource for the topic. Patricia LaPlante Collins continues to have interesting guests as well as ex-pats in the group. I would recommend going to an event while you are in Paris. It will give you a different perspective on life in Paris and France, besides, you will meet interesting people. Here is the link: http://patriciasparissoirees.com/.

Another highlight of this trip came from being on the Parissoirees list. Patricia reminded all of us of the opening of the Romare Bearden exhibition that opened at Reid Hall (Columbia University's Paris Center). It was a good exhibition and highlighted Bearden's time in Paris which he reflected in his drawings, drawing, and sketches several years after his visit. The host for the event was Robert O'Meally of Columbia and the President of Columbia University.

Paris continues to fascinate me and others who come to the City of Light. Paris always give me energy for research and writing.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Christmastide 2014-2015

It is the third day of the new year and the 10th day of Christmas. On this rainy day in Gettysburg, I find it a good time to reflect on the season and the beginning of 2015. As usual, the Christmas holiday was spent in Brooklyn, New York, where I stayed with my sister and brother-in-law. I presided at the Christmas Eve liturgy at Epiphany Lutheran where I grew up. I find it comforting to return to my familial and spiritual roots. This holiday was different in that one of my aunts had surgery on Christmas day so could not come to the house for dinner with my uncle. My other aunt (the oldest in the Strobert family) decided to stay at home, so we took dinner to her. It is always a delight to visit our cousin Ricky and his family. We had dinner there this last Thanksgiving. Their sons are really young men now, 23 and 19 years old. Time really goes rapidly.

A few days after Christmas, a good friend, Salud Nieting died from cancer. She was such a gracious person and fine host. Her late husband (Lorenz) was one of my New Testament professors when I was a student at Gettysburg. When I returned to the faculty, he was my colleague. My last formal dinner as a student was at the Nieting's before I left for my first call in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Salud along with Lisa Leber (a former advisee and now pastor) gave me a retirement party which was held at Salud's. Another pleasant memory for me was the time when I met Salud and Lorenz in Paris. They were celebrating a wedding anniversary, I was giving a paper at the Sorbonne. We met in front of Notre Dame, had lunch in and walked around the Latin Quarter. Rest in Peace, Salud.

This season was the first time without receiving a Christmas letter from Kathleen Gahagen, pastor in Buffalo, New York. She died this past year but her father, Robert Gahagen remembered her words and presence in his Christmas Eve sermon at Epiphany. It was the same sense of loss with the Pasqual family upon the death of Morris Pasqual, husband, father, grand-father, and great grand-father. He and his wife Gloria, raised 6 children who continue to be good, responsible, and professional people.

My health continues to bother me but I'm going to keep going until the time I'm not able to travel and get around has freely. I'll be leaving for Paris this month for a couple of weeks. It will be good to be in the city of lights while I work on an article that centers around Paris and two African American visitors to the city in the 19th century. For some reason I get inspired and creative when I'm in Paris. I'll stay at the same apartment complex as the last two times in the 15th arrondissement. During my time there, I'll take a couple of days to go to Amsterdam where I will meet my colleague and friend, Brooks Schramm. He is on sabbatical and doing research and writing in Emden Germany. Hopefully, I can visit the church where the meeting of the Evangelical Alliance was held in 1867. Daniel Payne was there. When I was working on my Payne book, I went there to take pictures, however, it was closed due to renovations. I want to take some interior photos as I work on a PowerPoint presentation of Payne in Europe.

As the new year begins, I hope to complete my book of essays on Martin Luther King, Jr. and complete the article. In March, I will be teaching "Multicultural Religious Education" as part of the Christian Education seminar at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. I look forward to the academic involvement. At the same time, I look forward to continuing my involvement with the Adams County Adult Literacy Council as a tutor. These students are really committed to learning!

If you read this issue of my blog, I pray that you have a glorious New Year 2015.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Remembering Cameroon, Central Africa

It is always interesting to see the way the past continues to inform us. I had the pleasure of introducing in Chapel at Gettysburg Seminary the guest preacher for the noon service, Pastor Paul Déouyo. He is professor of systematic theology at the Lutheran seminary in Meiganga in Cameroon, West Africa. In my early days on the Gettysburg Seminary faculty, I spent a month in Cameroon and most of the time was at the seminary there. Dr.  Déouyo and I have common friends. My friend, Tom Christiansen (ELCA retired missionary) was my host and taught Paul. Hopefully, we will be able to Skype on Monday afternoon so that Paul and Tom can have a conversation. Paul is also friends with Lee and Torborg Bonhoeff. They were missionaries in Cameroon as well. I had not met Paul during my time in Cameroon because it was during the summer and there were no classes. It was good being able to remember my time in Cameroon and in addition to be able to speak French in Gettysburg, PA. On Tuesday 16 September, Déouyo will give the Norma Schweizer Wood Lecture at Gettysburg Seminary.