Bring Jim Home
Organized by: Martha Rentz
Martha Rentz via Crowdrise
August 14, 2014
EVENT DATE Aug 10, 2014
Bring Jim Home
I long, as does every human being, to be at home, wherever I find myself. – Maya Angelou
A sad fact of American culture is we rarely seize the opportunity to take a closer look at those around us, to evaluate their lives, good and bad, to make a moral assessment, consider their history, life’s work, vocations and avocations and as a result of our estimation award them the accolades (or condemnation) they deserve. Thinking about this today in terms of Dr. James Rentz, I couldn’t think of a single instance where we do such a thing for each other unless we’ve become notorious in some way.
For celebrities we sometimes offer a “life-time achievement” award or a biography is written; for the infamous, a criminal trial or scandal is cause for writers to do a background piece on “the life of.”
For us regular folks there are two occasions where we examine each other’s lives: some sort of tragedy or death. (If Jim thinks of himself at all thinks of himself as “regular” and would dislike the way I'm going to describe him.)
What’s distressing about this lack of examination, for me, is I know there are so many people walking amongst us that appear regular, but are far from it. Jim Rentz is one of these people; a brilliant, accomplished, innovative man who has touched the lives of thousands, lived an amazing life and deserves both our admiration, interest, and help.
I am writing this to urge you to unite with us in our ambition of bringing him home.
Dr. Rentz, an avid equestrian and outdoorsman, loves nothing more than a camping trip with the people he loves… the longer the better. (His five children can attest to having been drug on trips in the camper when they’d have rather been at a theme park as a kid or in a hotel at the beach as a teen.) Yet he and his wife Martha adore life in that same ole’ camper and now that Jim’s retired, at least from private practice, they left home (Mill Spring, NC) for a two-month camping trip (I cannot imagine anything worse) in June.
They were having a blast; we all kept up with their journey via phone, text and e-mail. They’ve been exploring the Pacific Northwest, had been camping in Montana, have been enjoying good weather and, really, besides missing actual physical updates on their newest grandbabies, the brand-new Browning (5 months) and the sweet Charley (8 months), they were having the time of their lives.
They stopped in Michigan as a sort of last hoorah at a really beautiful place called Makinaw State Park and were giving updates about how amazing it was (surprisingly so), and were about to attend Martha’s annual family reunion before they headed home.
“It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I've gone and come back, I'll find it at home.” -- Rumi
Out of nowhere tragedy struck when Dr. Rentz noticed numbness and tingling in his left side, a scary symptom. Martha knew something was terribly wrong so called 911 immediately. Within minutes they were in this tiny, resort town emergency room in Petoskey, Michigan, a town of maybe 5,000. Not your ideal when tragedy happens, a scenario most of cannot imagine.
First Blessing: Amazingly, unimaginable, this tiny hospital in this little resort town has not just a neurology center, but a good one; the chances seemed beyond slim. We are comfortable with the neurosurgeon, however the news is bad: it is a hemorrhagic stroke. As even a good South Carolina boy would say, "There's gonna be a long row to hoe."
But the Rentz’s gathered their strength and pulled together because that’s what you do in a crisis of this magnitude; you put one foot in front of the other.
There are multiple problems with finding your self seriously ill 900+ miles from home. Here are just a couple of the highlights: the spouse who is well needs to go home and gather supplies because there’s not so much as an educated guess in these cases about how long you will be there; your children (in this case six total between them, eight grandchildren) all of whom want to come ASAP but for whom traveling is quite difficult.
As the well spouse you know nothing and nobody can help – not even a little bit and the simplest gaps in knowledge have been magnified under this stress… Just finding the closest Target, figuring out what to do about your monthly prescriptions, now, how to handle a banking question or what to do when the insurance company says they will mail you something to your home… not to mention what I am I going to do about this $115 room, the camper, maybe the son-in-law could take a week off and help find an efficiency apartment for the duration, Will or Jaimie could come up that long weekend and help with insurance claims… And then there’s – well, you get the picture. It’s just been kind of a big old nightmare.
The neurologists recommend Jim stay in acute care, but the insurance company disagrees so he is being transferred to subacute at this time. This is the point at which we all decided to step in and help the Rentz’s come home.
“Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always”. - Hippocrates
Hippocrates is the father of modern medicine and Dr. Rentz needs his prescribed third element most of all. If there’s going to be adequate treatment there has to be more comfort than he’s currently getting and the majority of that will be from his support system. Few of us can feel at home in a foreign land. I may be guilty of laying it on a bit thick for effect but if you’ve come this far with me, just please imagine being that sick and that far away from not just home but the doctors we’re familiar with, the familiar accents that sound good to our ears, the foods served in the hospital cafeteria, the regional football games that’ll soon be broadcast on TV – all that plus occasional glimpses of the people we love most, the babies we need to watch grow, the stories we need to hear, the laughter with friends and family that will heal us.
The physicians in Michigan who have been charged with Dr. Rentz’s care have urged us not to drive him home, saying it’s too far, that if moved it must be by ambulance with medical personnel in attendance. It will not surprise you, of course, that their insurance will not pay for this move as every problem as outlined above is clearly intangible and not deemed necessary for Dr. Rentz’s recovery from this stroke. Yet we all know – the person who ultimately denied this Hail Mary pass request/claim knows – that spending months and months in Michigan in rehab with no one familiar is not the key to his recovery.
Kelly Ann (his daughter, an RN in Greenville) “knows” the local rehab facility where he will be transferred and between she and Jim's son (Jamie, a doctor), his care can be coordinated by family along with the neurology team, not to mention they could also work closely with the PTs, OTs and speech therapists, we can all rest assured Dr. R will be getting the best possible care. In Michigan we feel we have little to no control. All of these extenuating circumstances as well as countless others – some we have yet to foresee – have made it impossible for us to leave Dr. R. and Martha alone in Michigan, for a single day longer than necessary.
We are asking you to join us in arranging medical transportation by whatever means necessary to transport him home safely and securely. This figure will cover the ambulance although we are aware that it’s possible we will need more – we hope not, but it’s possible.
For those of you who do not know Jim Rentz and have been led to this site through another means - a divine push speaking through someone else you care about, a humanistic urge to help, a recommendation to look at this link from a web source you trust, I want to tell you what little I know about this amazing man because what little I know is worthy of a "New Yorker" article at the least, a masters’ thesis at the other end of the spectrum.
I recently read an article a number of CEOs responded to a colleague who stated the character and thus “hirability” of a man can be determined without any testing, interviewing or background check: see if he acts differently with you than he does with maids, wait staff or mail clerks. If there’s a difference you know all you need to know. 100 percent of the CEOs interviewed agreed.
Of course this is something we know; it just isn’t something many of us practice in our daily lives. Jesus talked about as you treat the least of these; Mother Teresa said look into the eyes of a starving man and I will show you the eyes of God; CS Lewis said, “I help others because I am in desperate need of help,” and none of them – the son of God, a saint, a philosopher – had to “speak” to Jim Rentz twice. Placing the considerations of the less fortunate first is a noble, even holy, act and he’s treated everyone, regardless of station, the same since he was a young boy.
Dr. Rentz was born into an unremarkable, regular, poor family in a place – the lower part of the State of South Carolina, Orangeburg County, that if remarkable is only that way because of its poverty and desperation in the mid 40s – in a time that would be “of note” later. It quickly became apparent to those around him, though, that there was something special about Jim – he had a sharp, unsparing and analytical mind that was meant for more than a woodshop in Spartanburg County, never mind the honor found in such work.
Dr. Rentz always asked the big questions that most of us begin only to ask in middle age; why are we here, what is our purpose, what does it mean? In his youth he knew he wanted to help people and by the time he was a young adult he already was.
By the time he was in college at Furman University (the same school, interestingly, that his lovely Martha attended and his favorite son-in-law – oh, wait, his only son-in-law, Hunter, attended 50 years later) where he served in the ROTC. In 1967 because the Vietnam “Conflict” was in full swing he wanted to do what he could to serve his country (he was awarded the Bronze star; photo to be uploaded soon); he enlisted as a captain, became an army chaplain (a difficult, at best, position) where he offered aid and comfort to the troops as well as aiding the Vietnamese people. His platoon was charged with rebuilding an orphanage and while there he fell in love with a 6-year-old girl whose parents were killed in the war.
At age 26, this young adult brought Kim home to his wife and young son and began adoption proceedings in the American court system, just one of many examples of the kind of man Jim Rentz was. Let’s be real: many people returned from their service in Vietnam with a refugee from their time in Cambodia or Vietnam but it was primarily with a new wife, not a child they’d discovered needed a place to call home – it has always been what mattered to Jim, both his own sense of his roots and family and the south and South Carolina and his sense of offering a place to call home to those he felt needed that as much as they needed anything in their lives.
Upon returning from Vietnam, Jim was so horrified by what he had seen, so unpleasantly surprised that man’s inhumanity to man was not only possible but probable. As he contemplated this he made another decision testifying to his character: to take on one of the absolute worst and most dreaded jobs in, not just the military, but to anyone anywhere: to be a member of the military’s death notice team.
This gruesome job was depicted in the 2009 Woody Harrelson movie, “The Messenger.” Jim's job was to notify mostly wives and mothers that the person they loved most had died in combat, in a faraway place, without anyone they loved around.
Jim’s overwhelming drive to help others had become deeply ingrained by this time. And his desire to bring peace where there was hate, to console rather than be consoled was a living testament to the Prayer of St. Francis.
After his service to our country Jim's overwhelming drive to help others had become an intrinsic part of his personality. He spent the rest of his life devoting himself to the ideas brought forth in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. For example, bringing peace where there is hate, consoling rather than being consoled. He continued to utilize his mind by constant study, questioning, facing the philosophical uncertainties with theology by going to seminary at Wake Forest University, and then studying theology in a more formal manner, spending some time in the “research triangle” by attending the University North Carolina at Chapel Hill. So he devoted his life to serving both as a pastoral counselor, and as a therapist/psychotherapist who have been called contemporary secular priests. He is a man who tried to live his life in a Christ like manner.
Jim takes care of everybody: his patients, fellow congregants, family, neighbors, colleagues, former students, friends, and family. He is the living embodiment of “it is better to give than to receive”. He has for the entirety of his career seen patients based on “what they could pay” because Jim believed in and spoke out about universal health care many decades before it was hip to do so. He has also been academically successful in that he was instrumental along with his partner, Dr. Jim Pruett, in bringing on a systems based family approach to South Carolina. Once established as a new and incredibly effective form of helping the people of the South, Dr. Rentz went on to establish both a clinical program to help others, and then later created an academic program for students to be able to come and do their post-graduate work in Family Systems Therapy in order to carry the message back to practices all over.
Because of his work in trying to heal others either with the systems-based, family and marriage based approach to treatment or through his personal spiritual beliefs he has helped thousands of people throughout his career to heal. Similarly his work creating and breathing life into these academic programs and formulating part of the curriculum for the study of family systems has made an enormous impact on the careers of hundreds of successful clinicians who are out there healing others.
Through his goodness and solid good old boyishness Jim has touched the lives of many just by being who he is: the kind of man you want in your corner when anything comes up. We know the lists of who cares about what happens to Jim Rentz and his family are so varied and diverse we’ll have trouble getting this out to half of you. We’re trying to trust it’ll be okay. We know that you want to help us cover the inordinately large costs of Bringing. Jim. Home.
Remember, these things are built one step at a time. A ten-dollar donation, turns into $40.00, turns into a Benjamin. (Yeah, I’m real born & raised in Compton kind of girl.)
That’s how we can get them all together, get his care under control and just – be together. It’s not an it takes a village thing; it’s a one dollar at a time thing and it’ll all add up. Contributing to the cost of the $11,000 medical transportation will no doubt ease the worry of what will assuredly be a large pile of medical bills to come.
Thanks for reading this and no matter how little you can donate please pass this along.
(And just tell Jim I called him a good ole’ Southern boy who’s kind of a do-gooder, all right?)