At 10:00 last night, I received a phone call. The family was preparing to move a member from life support. Could I come to the hospital? I changed my shirt, combed my hair, and headed out the door. He was at the big hospital, which is closer than the small hospital we referred to as a "band aid station" was in Tiny Village, where I'd have had to travel an hour to get to someplace offering the same level of care. As I was driving, I was reflecting on how much easier it is when the hospital is close by.
Daughter was safe at her group home, so I didn't have to worry about leaving her home alone. I did leave her alone at night in Tiny Village, but there was the constant worry about how long I could stay before heading home to her. (Our arrangement was I'd leave a note on the bathroom mirror telling her I was at the hospital and get home before she got up in the morning). It was easier to be fully present with the family when I wasn't watching the clock and worrying about what was going on at home.
Sometimes I wonder if my presence at the hospital really makes a difference. This family has had a number of challenges that have made relationships hard. When there are problems in family relationships, it is harder to deal with death. The family member who called me told earlier in the week that he wasn't into all that "God stuff" and didn't really believe. With a broken relationship with the dying family member and no relationship with God, he was really struggling. After I'd been there a little while, I pulled the family together around the bed, I talked to them and prayed with them. I could see that my words were helping, and that they were calmer.
It wasn't as easy or quick as they had hoped. There were many doctors who were involved in his care and need to sign off on the decision. When I left the hospital, the family was grateful, "I don't know how you do this," said the individual who had called me. I told him, as I tell all families, that it is an honor to be present with them at such times. It was almost 2:00 when I got home. I had to get up this morning because the man who is installing my furnace and AC was due by 8:00. I may try to sneak in a nap this afternoon-- or at least go to bed early tonight. I am grateful to be here, where hospitals are closer, Daughter is in a group home, and the logistics of this kind of ministry are easier.