Well, I’ve been on call twice.  And twice I’ve been called in.  This most recent time, I gave last rites to a 92 year old gentleman — who may have eventually recovered, I don’t know.  The regular chaplain follows up with this.  Anyway, he had pnuemonia after two surgeries (and seemed totally unaware that I was there).  His wife and family, however, were appreciative.

I had a chance to talk with her at some length.  Hearing about his life and their mariage and family.  Talking about what would happen if he died.  I like to think she was better prepared for that eventuality by the time I left.

I suspect it’s always going to be (potentially) a matter of life and death when I’m called in.  And I’m glad I’m not facing this all day every day.  But it is a chance to be there for people in a place where my presence matters and can make a difference.  So far, at least, I’ve been glad to have been there — and glad that I’m not the one who needs to follow up on this for, perhaps, the next year.

Of course, non of us is ever prepared when someone we love dies.  My dad died suddenly of a heart attack when I was 11, and I was devastated.  My mom died slowly after a two year battle with cancer.  By the time she died, there was as much relief as there was sorrow, but I was still completely devastated.  Even when you know it’s coming, even when you know it’s a release for the person you love (and for you) after a terrible, grinding process, you are not prepared.  At least I wasn’t.  I still broke down in tears when I heard (though I believe they were more or less equally tears of sorrow and tears of relief).

For those of us who believe there is more (and better) life to come, there is hope for something better for those we love.  I think that makes it easier, in time, to let go.  But it does not make it easy.  I trust that both my mother and my father are safely in God’s hands.  That doesn’t mean I wanted to let go.  That doesn’t mean I don’t miss them.  But it means, to paraphrase Dame Julian, that I believe that all is well for them.  And that does give me comfort.

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