Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Joys of the Season

....the Christmas season, that is. So last night, fool that I am, I decided that Wilson Wolfhound and I needed to take a nice walk so that I could look at Christmas lights and so that he could sniff the bases of trees. I knew that it was chilly and that flurries were falling, but I did *not* know that the wind chill was below zero. We chugged along for about a mile then cut over to the parkway (grassy, tree-lined area between eastbound and westbound lanes of a street) to head for home. I wonder how many people we terrify, lurching along the parkway after dark; I look vaguely humanoid although blurred in my layers of coats, hat, and gloves, and my 140-pound puppy, lanky and long-legged, has been mistaken for a horse, a pony, a product of alcohol-induced delirium, and (more generally) a "farm animal." And the sounds--all from me, as he is notably quiet when walking--"OH, look, new lights on that house!! Don't PULL, dammit, it's icy. Heel, HEEL I said, wow, they have a tree in their window now! Look! NO!!! No lunging, no diving, LEASH MANNERS you big goofball, yes, of course I still love you, you just have to PAY ATTENTION." Etc. I did fall again of course, nowhere interesting this time, but the hound decided this must be a fascinating addition to the evening's activities. He promptly began licking my face. Dog saliva freezes quite rapidly when the wind chill is below zero.

So this evening was the church's Christmas presentation, which was really enjoyable although I would say that in general those who lack relative pitch should not sing solos. Or duets. On the other hand, one soloist was taken ill at the last minute and the Director of Ministries had roughly five minutes to learn the part to fill in, and did extremely well. He (D of M) had been meant to open with prayer, but having been handed the solo he tossed me the opening prayer. Words to live by: When you get shanghaied, DELEGATE.

Friday I did my first solo funeral, for a person whose death I attended on the unit, and whose family decided that it would help them to have someone who had some connection with the deceased, rather than a rent-a-minister from the funeral home. The funeral home was rather Interesting, as the retainers who do things like hand out the memorial pamphlets and load the CD player all looked as if they should have been customers, and years ago at that. The chapel was, well, pleasant. But the pulpit/lectern/something in front was roughly the size of the command deck on a battleship. Perhaps there was a built-in baptismal font in the thing (full immersion of course); I can't think of a single other reason why it would have needed to be so immense. Suffice to say I didn't use it as I'd have disappeared behind it, and when one is nervous anyway there is no need to allow oneself to be intimidated by the pulpit of all things. I hope what I said was comforting to the family. Following the worst act imaginable is a gift, and I had that gift, because apparently the family viewing the night before was a disaster. There was a very visible corrugated-cardboard container holding the remains, and a shoddy preparation of the remains for viewing. The relatives were devastated, and I don't blame them. They'd had the viewing to help them remember the deceased as in life, and instead it made things much worse. I wanted to do better by them; don't know if I did, but if I failed it wasn't for want of trying.

Then, on the unit, new patients, new families. I have only four more weeks and it is going to be very hard indeed to leave. I will miss the CNAs, the RNs, the social worker, all of whom have been more than generous to me as a chaplain intern. And I will miss the patients and families, whose stories and struggles and simple heroism have so deeply touched and transformed my heart. Chaplaincy feels so right to me, so much a home. The ministry of holding a hand in the night...


Blogger Tim Colburn said...

"... Chaplaincy feels so right to me, so much a home. The ministry of holding a hand in the night..."

Sounds kind of like a calling, eh? Of course, who's to say what else you will encounter in your professional education?

Tim in Park Forest, IL

7:20 PM  

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