Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Nobody Told Me...

It has taken me over two months to even BEGIN to process all that took place during my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) this past summer at Littleton Adventist Hospital in Colorado.  What a gift it was to worship at my home congregation of Bethany Lutheran Church on so many occasions, even if I was called to the hospital during multiple services!  

CPE is a requirement for all seminary students, and includes direct instruction, small-group time, conferencing, counseling, de-briefing, and a TON of time with real patients in real situations on REAL days of their lives.  While I might have been practicing this new call of Pastor and Chaplain, the people I met this summer were experiencing their lives changing in front of their eyes.  This wasn’t a practice or dress rehearsal for them, and as a Chaplain I had a front-row seat to all of the drama, the pain, the joy, and certainly, to all of the emotion. 

Among the millions of things I learned 
how to do this summer, 
there are a few things that nobody told me: 

Nobody told me....
…what it would feel like when someone's heart actually stopped beating.
…how important it was to meet with my pastors over the summer.
…I'd find myself assisting EMTs at a motorcycle accident on I-25.
…what the faces of ER staff would look like when they were unable to save a patient.
…how helpful it was to hear the laughter of children.
…just how tiny a miscarried baby would be.
…that Chaplains are bouncers when it comes to unruly or unwanted visitors.

Nobody told me…
…what a Godsend it would be to return home to Susan each night.
…that sleep was such an ungraspable commodity.
…that burying multiple Bethany friends this summer would only add to the heartache.
…how incredibly unhelpful printed books and resources would be when it came time to actually offer comfort. 
…that when everyone else walks out of a room, a Chaplain walks in.

Nobody told me…
…that sometimes tears were the only answer.
…that I can now smell death the moment I walk onto a floor.
…that I would literally live out the 'pray unceasingly' part of Scripture…EVERY MINUTE.
…what a relief it would be to round a corner and see a familiar face.
…what a joy it would be to sit and chat with Bethany members
…that a drunk visitor would pull a knife on me (which the teacher in me immediately and safely confiscated).

Nobody told me…
...my heart would literally skip a beat seeing a family member on the ER bed.
…just how healing the Rocky Mountains would be this summer. 
…how useful my many years of teaching would be when it came to negotiating end-of-life decisions with families.
…what it would feel like to hold a mother as her child died.
…that sunsets and sunrises would be healing balm for my soul.

Nobody told me…
…about the wounding and breaking of my heart when the abandoned infant, whom we had cared for so deeply,  died in our arms at 45 days old. Rest in peace, sweet Adriana.
…how baptismal waters would cleanse and heal again and again. 
…that as Chaplains, we literally deliver the remains of the miscarried children to the local mortuary, where they lay those sweet and deeply-loved babies to rest.
…that my colleagues would be so caring and loving and genuine.

Nobody told me…
…that a sense of humor is a MUST.
…that I'd be filling out toe tags for patients who had died.  Toe tags, people.  Toe tags. 
…that teaching piano lessons would actually be a welcome escape.
…just how cold and cramped a morgue really is.
…that I will detest the sound of a beeper for the rest of my life. 
…how fulfilling it felt to sit beside those awaiting surgery, holding their hands, and quelling their fears. 
…how peaceful death can be.
...that my hair would literally turn grey...er...SILVER this summer.  Truly.

Nobody told me…
…how much food a family needs while waiting for their loved one to die.
…what courage it would take to press SEND on the phone when calling a family to notify them that their loved one had just died.
…the stamina (and stomach) one needs when walking into the ER and greeting a patient...and their gruesome injury.
…that heroin is a true enemy in this state. 

Nobody told me…
…how refreshing it was to welcome visitors for lunch, filling my cup with joy again.
…that nurses need just as much love as the patients. 
… I'd be coaching people out of committing suicide.  Often.
…that even Atheists want Chaplains to stay in their rooms and listen to their story.
…that the sound of a helicopter or ambulance will continue to take my breath away.
…how predictable and unique each and every death truly is.

Nobody told me…
…that even someone with this much energy has the 
capacity to quietly and compassionately minister to those in need.
…just how splashed with grace I would be by the 
patients who kindly received me into their rooms and their lives.
…how the Holy Spirit would move amongst ALL of the workers at the hospital
…what holy ground I'd be walking upon.

Nobody told me…
…that this was the summer I was to become a Pastor.


Sarah said...

Wow, Brenda! I had no idea what your work involved. I'm so touched by your words and feel so many were/are lucky to have you in their lives.

Larry Batterman said...

A Pastor and an Angel, all rolled into one! Thank you for taking on all those challenges. Keep up the great work.