What does it mean that we all will die at some point? I am a chaplain in training. Yesterday two of my patients died in ICU. And before that three patients died during the week. Patient that died in ICU, Edna (pseudonym) was a lovely person. So was her husband, Ed. I visited them twice before she got transferred to the ICU. She and Ed talked about Alaska as if it were the place to be! Imagine, Alaska, the state that elected Sarah Palin as governor! Mr and Mrs E encouraged me to apply for a job there. Oh they need people for everything! You need to be roughed though. Are you outdoorsy? Oh every guide we had carried a rifle. !!! it was on their trip to Alaska that Mrs E fell asleep on tours and Mr E knew something was wrong he said. It wasn’t like Edna to be sleeping on tours! Trip to Alaska had saved her life they said. Mrs E, how do you stay so positive? Oh, I give myself pep talks. You’ll have to teach me how you do that! Oh, I just talk to God. oh, that’s right up my ally! maybe next time we could pray together. …
but there was no next time. on my way up to the ICU to answer a page, I ran into Mr E. I was caught off guard. mr E answered the question I was thinking in my head. She’s not doing so well. she’s on life support. you want to meet my daughters? they are both here. sorry I was paged for another patient. I’ll drop by afterwards. my heart sank. on my way to ICU I was already sad, heart broken. when I dropped by mr E said to come back later. they are waiting for a priest. could I check on that? absolutely! I thought I’d get another chance to visit with the patient and family.
later in the afternoon, the room was closed. I could tell room was empty. still I had to find out. a clerk told me the patient expired. noooo. I thought I could come pray together with mr and mrs E. after I left the hospital, I felt like a lost spirit. I walked but I was looking past the objects. I wasn’t really seeing or thinking anything except when a cab angrily honked at me. I thought, sure, run me over, everyone dies. I Texted my boyfriend. I am walking aimlessly. his response was a question mark. guess my text needed clarification. I’m trying to walk off grief I said.
it felt weird to be alive encountering death so closely. I didn’t feel dead. I didn’t quite feel alive either. I had asked a colleague during the day, the staff in ICU, what are that made of? how do they do it?
similarly, what kind of people are chaplains exactly? how do chaplains do it? Are they pain and suffering junkies? no. pain sucks. suffering sucks. but we endure pain and suffering sometimes even choosing it as a profession because we care. it is a hard life. I’m not sure I can take it. all I can say is I sure am happy I got a chance to meet mr and mrs E. she was a lovely soul. so is Mr E.