Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How, I Wonder

For some reason, a particular encounter from last summer's CPE has come to mind repeatedly over the past few days.

It was a Sunday morning and I was on call in the hospital. Week-end daytime on calls were the easiest -- no overnight, just 8:00- 4:30, with a chapel service to lead on Sunday. I arrived full of energy and eager to preach my little sermon to whomever might show up for the service.

When I arrived, I was asked to meet with a family whose husband and father had himself arrived only hours later and would be dying sometime that day, after life support was removed. It took awhile to marshall the family members, and so I spent much of the day with them. The gentleman was about my age, a seemingly healthy and energetic man who had suffered a stroke while performing some household chores. His son, the age of my own boys, was in agony, and I spent most of my time with him. He had suffered several setbacks in his life in the previous weeks, and he clearly adored his father.

We made an unlikely pair, from an appearance standpoint. I looked pretty chaplain-y ~ which is to say: conservative pants, shoes, jacket ~ and he looked pretty ~ oh, I don't know ~ Goth, maybe? But we quickly developed a deep bond as we talked over a period of several hours, and when his father finally left us, he threw his arms around me and sobbed.

What I most remember, though, is the urgent question he asked me at some point:

How do you DO this?

I thought, and still think, that he meant to ask how I, as a chaplain, was able to stand situations such as his family's, day after day.

But now I also hear another question that he may have intended to ask as well: How do I do this? How do I live through these hours? How do I survive and go on after my father dies?

I wonder what I would say today.

I wonder what his own answer has turned out to be.

5 comments:

Karen and Joe said...

my answer: one day at a time.

Jennifer said...

Continued prayers....

David said...

You & I, me and you, us. Your sharing is a good reminder to not let the emphasis in ministry rest upon us when we are asked: for the other is trying to know how they might do their own form of ministry in their own way. I'm glad you were there for him, and that he still informs you now. Peace.

Stratoz said...

what I think is this... if we find a true vocation, what seems impossible to others becomes our passion. I hope the young man is on the way to find his as we travel towards our own ...

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I like all the answers posted before me. My own response was closest to that of Karen and Joe . . . just one little step at a time.