Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Never What You Think

It’s a half hour past midnight here.

I went to bed at 10 pm and enjoyed two blissful hours of sleep before being awakened by the phone. There was the initial disorientation – where am I? What time is it? Why is my husband not in bed? Followed by slightly less disorientation (emphasis on ‘slightly’) as my muddled brain tried to understand why the phone rang. It was midnight. Therefore, my brain came up with the most logical answers it could, operating on CPE sleep-deprivation:

a) Something has happened to my parents.
b) Something has happened to my son (off at debate camp).
c) My husband has become another person, one who not only is having an affair, but is having one with someone so ditzy she called his house at midnight.

I grudgingly decided to face reality, whichever horrible one it was, and got up. I could hear the husband’s voice, still talking on the phone, coming from upstairs. Odd. Then I noticed a tennis racket lying on the living room floor.

“Husssband?” I called, fearfully.

He came to the railing. “I’m talking to my sister.”

My brain instantly leapt to worrying that something had happened to his mom, for a very tense second, until I remembered that she was sound asleep on the futon in our gameroom and wouldn’t it be really weird if his sister knew something happened to her before we did?

As I stood there, my brain creakily turning, my eyes landed again on the tennis racket.

The Husband was leaning on the railing again. “There’s a bat in the house.”

NEVER what you think!

As my husband stayed up late working on the computer, he became aware of a black thingy flying around the living room. Not hobbled by 2 hours of blissful sleep, it didn’t take long for him to determine what it was. He called his sister, the wildlife biologist, who then called him back to tell him the best thing to do was kill it with a tennis racket, then carefully place it in a garbage bag and take it to be tested for rabies.

In the meantime, it disappeared.

After checking the girls’ rooms, he stuffed towels under the doors so Mr. Bat couldn’t crawl into their rooms (stuffed them under Mother-In-Love’s door, too). He’s tucked me away in our room. Just get some sleep, he generously told me.

Sure, babe.

So, I’m googling about whether you can get a preventative rabies shot (yes) and wondering if I can get one at my hospital workplace tomorrow.

Never what you think.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"No one laughs at God in a hospital ..."

I've been praying a lot lately. Holding the hands of young and old, strong, weak, even paralyzed. "Know your audience, know your purpose," my CPE supervisor/teacher/role model, Rev. Dr. Strong Love, instructs.

Audience: Catholic? Then I will pray Father-Son-Holy-Spirit. Baptist? Thank you, my evangelical seminary, for giving me my Baptist trinity, "Our Creator, Our Redeemer, and Our Sustainer." Jewish? Y'varekh'kha ADONAI v'yishmerekha, I offer.

Purpose ... it is not mine to decide the purpose. I have learned to ask the person who wants the prayer, what is most on your heart right now? Upon what do you want me to focus this prayer? Sometimes, what they say aligns with what I assumed -- Please let the surgery go well and let me be healed. Often, though, it's different. No matter what happens, let my family be okay with it.

Together, we pray for peace. I ask that doctors and nurses be given wisdom and skill. I pray that the person feel God's presence.

Occasionally when I am guest-preaching somewhere, a person will come up and introduce themselves and reference this blog. (And thank you for that -- I love meeting you in "real life.") Last year, this stunning young woman did that, then left me with a remarkable gift, telling me that something I had written about prayer affected her, and helped her.

We share our journeys, rarely knowing how, or if, our struggles will affect someone else's journey. We just never can know ... you know? I have a CPE classmate who is normally rather quiet, but when he speaks, his words often offer wisdom I can use. I am greedy, which I have told him, and I want more. Even if it's not profound, even if it's 'stupid' ... because the Spirit uses all sorts of things, significant and trivial, to take root in the psyche of another.

I only pray when the patient or family requests it. I have no interest in a perfunctory "this is what a chaplain does" sort of thing. You allow me into your room, I give you a prayer (whether you want it or not). Be sure and tip your nurse on the way out.

But they do request it. A nurse starts to come into the room. "Please give us just a moment," I tell her. The family, or I and just the patient, bow our heads and attempt to connect with each other, and with something outside ourselves.

I went to follow up with a patient I'd had a good talk with the day before. The transformation in her, this day, was stark and heartbreaking. Like a child, she was curled up on her side, her head flat, no pillow, in the dark. I crouched down so our faces were just a few inches apart. "They opened me up. There is cancer. I don't want to talk. I don't want to talk. Just, please, pray."

I prayed. My two hands around the one that she extended to me, I prayed with everything I had that she feel Spirit, that she receive comfort, and peace. Yes Jesus, she murmured at certain parts, please God, at others. Amen, we said together, our voices faint whispers floating off like the smoke of an extinguished candle in that dark institutional room.

Related Posts:
Power of Prayer? Or Not ... 
Power of Prayer ... Three Years Later
Praying Out Loud