Dec. 19, 2015

Going Home

Where has the time gone? Here it is the Christmas season and I keep asking the question, "what happened to January?" When I ask this question most people smile and nod their heads in agreement that they too recognize how quickly the time seems to be passing. And with the passing of time, particularly during the holiday season, often our minds begin to reflect on memories of home. Some of those memories may be fond and some, well, some are not so good! We may be up to our eyeballs in shopping or gift wrapping or football watching or preparations for making that long drive to see relatives, or we may not have anyone at all with whom to share the holidays. I don't think, though, that keeps us from reflecting on memories of home. As a matter of fact, I think that may cause such memories to overwhelm us all the more at times. Even some of the Christmas songs we hear, like "I'll be home for Christmas" seems to have a certain sadness about it that the only way we will be getting home this year is in our dreams. "Home" means so many things to all of us. There is another aspect of home, however, that I wish to share with you that overtook me as I ministered to a patient and their family just this week where I serve as a chaplain. I asked permission from them to relay this story to you and they graciously agreed. Thank you for allowing me to do this!

In the hospital setting when a "code" is called often it is about the resuscitation of a patient that has stopped breathing and their heart has stopped beating. Such was the case of a particular patient on my nursing unit. When I arrived the patient's spouse was not present but I was informed that they had just gone downstairs to get a cup of coffee. Upon finding the family member the information was given that her husband was being resuscitated. After accompanying the family member back to the area where the patient was being cared for the code team was successful in their efforts to resuscitate the patient and he was moved to the intensive care unit. There he was placed on a breathing machine to allow him to rest while recovering from what he had just encountered.

Often families dealing with difficult and trying situations regarding their loved one's health struggle with conversations that pertain to end of life. The conversation took place between family and physician and it became apparent that due to his condition his quality of life would never improve. It was decided based on this and previous conversations with the patient, his wife, his family and physician that if it came to this it would be time to say goodbye. As many times as I have accompanied family members through these waters I am so overwhelmed with the sacredness of God's Spirit and my sense of being held in His presence through them. It was decided to begin the process of removing life support the following day.

There is an awe factor in what I am about to share with you. As I stood at the foot of the patient's bed I listened as the physician spoke to the patient and his wife and the patient's son and daughter. The patient was guardedly alert. The compassion with which the physician related spoke volumes to me of his care and concern. "Are you ready for me to remove the life support?" The patient nodded his head. All of us except the doctor and nurse were asked to step outside the room until they had removed the ventilator. Medications were administered to keep him comfortable so he would not suffer. 

While we waited to re-enter the room the patient's daughter began telling me some family history I was not anticipating. The history was about her. She informed me that she had been diagnosed with cancer some five years earlier and that it had metastasized throughout her body. She related how her diagnosis and struggle with this disease had somehow aided her in being more present with her daddy as he made his transition. Again, I was overwhelmed. Then she slipped off her overcoat revealing a blouse covered in butterflies. Oh my soul! How appropriate! Grasping the understanding of our amazing transformation from this life to the next seen so clearly in the metamorphosis of the catapillar and butterfly again just overwhelmed me.

Once we were back in the patient's room chairs were brought in so we could sit and wait. As we waited all of a sudden the familiar tune of Amazing Grace began to be hummed and softly sung by the patient's daughter. My eyes filled with tears. Soon with seemingly no struggle the patient took his flight. At some point in our time together I had asked permission to speak to the patient while he was somewhat alert. His wife nodded. I told the patient that my prayers were with him today and that soon he would expereince the joy of his beginning, that soon he would be going home!