It was early. . .
right before 8:00 a.m.
and she spotted me right away as I walked off the elevator.
I was covering for him;
he was on vacation
and I had gotten the alert we had a new patient
that needed to be seen before the weekend
so that we would stay compliant. . .
I went over to the nurses station where she was standing
and I asked about the new patient and what room he was in;
The Nurse told me that he was in room 2223
and he had a good night.
When I went to his room he was sleeping,
but not very soundly. . .
I gently knocked on the door
and introduced myself. . .
I explained my role of being a Spiritual Care Coordinator
and it really being a fancy name for being a Chaplain. . .
“I know that you have just come on to hospice and there’s been a whole wave of folks to come in to see you, even me. But, sir,” I went on to explain further, “You’re so important to all of us that you get your own Nurse, Social Worker, Home Health Aide, Chaplain, and if you would like, a Music or Art Therapist or even a Masseuse.”
I’ve said something like this
in a script-like introduction 1000’s of times before
in my 22 years of hospice work. . .
“God Dammit,” he whispered,
almost like he was just above silently praying the
“O u r F a t h e r,”
and then he said it louder and one more time
L O U D E R still.
It was then that I saw that his eyes were more than misted,
that they had actually welled up to the point of overflowing their brims. . .
“It’s not suppose to be like this, it’s just god damn not suppose to be like this,”
he said, a little more composed tone as he opened up the lid to his oatmeal.
he said as he stabbed a spoon in the middle of it.
“This’ll make it all better.”
We both laughed.
“Are you in any pain? Do you hurt anywhere?”
“Are, are you afraid? Worried?”
He let his mouthful of Oatmeal do the talking.
S I L E N C E
. . .scares people into talking
. . .sometimes even shouting loudly
. . .or just making noise
so as to break that highly polished
C r y s t a l S I L E N C E
into small, jagged pieces
that might cut but not remain Soundless
any longer. . .
We feared the SILENCE—–
Neither of us. . .
We accepted it. . .
Embraced it. . .
Let it do our talking
and we L I S T E N E D. . .
More. . .we heard!
He stared down into his coffee cup
as if it was a magic mirror
waiting to tell him the secret of Life and,
. . .and of Death
He was really looking for the Answer
even while wanting to ask the
Ultimate Question. . .
“Yeah, uhh, yeah, I’m a little afraid,”
he coughed, cleared his throat and then affirmed,
“But not of dying, but more of the how, the when, the hurt of it all.”
He didn’t look up from his coffee.
He did look up,
and without blinking, asked,
“Is that normal?”
“Yes, I believe it is because so many others have told me so.”
“That they’re afraid of what happens before they die and not after?”
“What, what do you tell them?”
“I ask them what has helped them in the past when they were going through something so hard and difficult.”
S I L E N C E
“And now, now I am asking you. . . What helps you? What do you need just right now, not then, just right here, right now?”
“I think a prayer would really help.”
“Would you like me to pray with you or would you like to pray with me?”
“I think I’d like you to pray with me. . .Would you?”
“Yes sir. . .Yes, I would be honored. Would you like me to include anything in the prayer?”
“Whatever comes to your mouth.”
“God, we call you by many names and one of them happens to be ‘Our Father.’ It makes us all of your children. You have never lied to us, you told us there was a time to be born and a time to die; but you’ve promised no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mouth has told, no mind has ever imagined what you have planned for those you’ve enduringly loved. The truest and sincerest gift we have is our Fear and we wholeheartedly give it to you. If you can’t take it all away, please share it with us. . .”
“Thank you. . .This was great. . . I really appreciated you coming by even when I didn’t know how bad I needed it.”
“You gave me the gift, this morning, sir. . . Thank you.”
We shook hands without much shaking. . .
I held his hands in mine. . .
We locked eyes. . .
We didn’t blink. . .
spoken/heard- -implicitly. . .
When I went out to the nurses station,
the Nurse was flustered. . .
“I’m so sorry. . .”
“I sent you into see the wrong patient. . . He’s not with your hospice, he’s with another one. . . I’m so sorry!”
“Don’t you take that from me,”
I said smiling at her. . .
“We just had an awesome visit. . .
I don’t care if he was with our hospice or not…it was a great visit, for both of us.”
And then I laughed. . .
“Besides, I don’t have to document on him now!”
She laughed too, with a redness covering her face. . .
“But you do have to go see your real hospice patient now.”
He was sleeping. . .
I was a l o t more awake. . .