I was in super hurry mode yesterday when my phone rang. I had to be in the ER by noon, and after an early morning dentist appointment (that’s how I roll-get me in that chair before I wake up and I’ll be fine!)and grocery shopping, I ran home to feed my menagerie and was just on my way out the door. I looked at my cell phone with irritation. My phone NEVER rings, but it rang twice while at the dentist, and I wouldn’t have answered it at all, but my boss was the caller. She is the Chaplain of the hospital, and also heads the volunteer department.
Hey Michele, let me know if you feel comfortable with this, she went on to ask if I would mind sitting with a patient whose doctor had ordered a spiritual presence, a minister, a priest, or anyone in the Chaplain ministry-basically, she was asking if I was up to a bedside vigil. I hurriedly agreed and headed out the door.
Years ago I was volunteering for a hospice organization who not only trained me well, but gave me free reign over the nurses in the nursing home they worked out of. I will never forget the last bedside vigil I attended. I greeted the family late in the evening, the son, the daughter-in-law and a handful of grandchildren. The patient was dying of lung cancer, and although he was well up in age, the family was absolutely distraught.
How can I be of assistance?, I asked, not understanding the frenzied energy in the room. The son was on the verge of hysteria, and he calmed down enough to tell me that the nursing home had ‘run out of morphine.’ Knowing what I knew, and that was the fact that patients in hospice have a standing order for morphine or fentanyl, and Ativan. How could this possibly be????
The poor man was in and out of consciousness, but when he was aware he begged for relief from the pain, he couldn’t breathe, and I was in absolute shock. I ran to the nurses station, I asked what the hell was going on, and within a few moments an RN appeared with the drug, looking sheepish and irritated. Had I interrupted her break? I asked, each word dripped venom, I had no respect for her whatsoever. There are laws in the state of Pennsylvania that demand that patients in end stage disease who are placed in hospice receive whatever they need to be comfortable, and she had ignored her responsibility to humankind. That little episode cost her a career, and I left the company not long after. I swore off the medical field in general-alas, caring for others is in my blood, and soon I began a career as an Emergency Medical Technician, but that, too, went by the wayside after I watched a movie entitled Whatever Happened to Aunt Diane?
The documentary detailed the death of four children, at the hands of their aunt, who had self medicated to the point of oblivion, rather than go to the dentist for an infected tooth. She brought her sister’s children down to Rehoboth for the weekend. While there she drank a fifth of Jack Daniels, smoked weed and took a half of a bottle of Percocet. She then put the kids in her van and headed home, only she didn’t make it. Driving 100 mph on the wrong side of the turnpike ended the trip abruptly. All five were dead on the scene. The screen shots of the children, so innocent, all girls-well, that was enough for me to turn in my resignation. I could not fathom EVER being on a scene like that, and knew in my heart of hearts that I would be of no help, I would be in the ambulance, but as a patient, dying of a broken heart.
Driving to the hospital, I was nervous, on edge. I turned the radio on and off. I needed to pray, and after that? I turned the dial to the Christian radio station-the song above was playing and I was instantly calmed. When I arrived, I rushed to the Chapel to say a prayer. As I knelt before the altar, I took note that the bible was turned to a page in Corinthians, which spoke about love….the exact verses I read during my father’s eulogy. And again, the peace that surpasses understanding washed over me like so much holy water, giving me strength in the knowledge that I was here for a reason.
As I left her room, much later in the day, she was in the presence of angels. I have seen this phenomena before, many times. As far as I could tell, her husband and children were in that room with her, long ago deceased-they had come to take her home….where the manna from Heaven will feed her for ever and ever and ever……….