I did not expect the call, and yet I should have. A family who had been determined to “do everything” came to understand that the medications were not compensating. The body was not working. The good-byes came faster than they wanted.
The tender reality of an ICU is that one must constantly balance “hope” and “reality”. The problem lies in the fact that no one knows for a certainty what the course of stay will bring. We don’t look at a patient and say “she’ll never make it” or “he’s gonna pull through” because dollars to donuts, we will be wrong. It really is God’s domain.
There is an element to chaplaincy that requires a listening heart and open hands. So much of the journey through blood tests and procedures is as much “art” as it is “science” and many times, a highly-trained “best guess” is all anyone can offer.
Everything within me wants to jump in and “help”. But, instead I am tasked with watching and praying. I stand on the sidelines as the medical team has conversations with family members. I listen, watch and assess to see if they understand. I don’t explain, recommend or offer my thoughts. Praying silently and fervently, I ask for wisdom and discernment that is not from this earth.
Today, before I got on the unit, the family had come to agreement. They wanted to remember, to celebrate, to reflect, and to begin the process of grief. One family member asked me if I knew the old Latin mass “Benedictus” and thanks to singing a few hundred Masses, I did. I recited it. They prayed. We allowed God to do God’s work.
One family member said, “we want to say goodbye on God’s terms” and so with grace and dignity, that is what they did.
Benedictus qui venit is nomine domine. Hosanna in excelsis.
How blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace has a beautiful setting of this text for the “Benedictus”. You can find it here…