So, I went up to the hospital, thankful that I was already in Rapid. And I stayed with the family until about 1:30 in the morning... I don't usually do well after 10pm, I turn in to a pumpkin of sorts --I'm certainly not Cinderella, I have never owned glass slippers or fit in to them, nor would I wear them even if I could.... so, a pumpkin, of sorts.
So, I was happy I could make it to 1:30am. And be with the family.
And what a beautiful family... Usually, there is great tension and argument when a decision to remove life support has been made --someone always holding on to a shred of hope, unwilling to let go. But, the grandpa set the example --and had talked thoroughly with the one who had to make the final decision, and knowing how hard the decision is/was, offered only full support and prayer.
At 1:30, the one who had to make the final decision still had not given the staff the go-ahead, so I went home --wondering if I was in the way, if the decision would be acted upon with only the family present.
I don't even remember falling asleep. Except the dogs were there... so happy to see me.
I do remember that it was only after three or four hours of sleep that I received the call --the go-ahead was given. Life support would be disconnected after the 8am shift change. So, I had coffee and breakfast, and ran back to the hospital.
I couldn't stay --he wasn't one to make an immediate run for it, so I was able to go get the grandmas and assure them that he could now hear and respond, and now would be the time to go tell him how much he was loved. So, they did. And all the brothers and sisters and cousins and aunties and uncles --all of them did too.
And then I got in the car to return to Eagle Butte for the comfort service of the other young man who had died in the same ICU. Both young men had been directly across the nurses' station from each other --one in the east, one in the west...
I had gone to Rapid for a day off --so I had gone without a clergy shirt or collar. I was in jeans and t-shirts of various sorts and conditions. I got stopped, curtly, by nurses and others, as I went from one room to the other. I apologized for not being in "uniform" and explained who I was... they were so surprised.
In the midnight hour, the nurse had addressed the family, explaining each step that would happen. The family filled the entire waiting room, children running around, babies and toddlers doing what babies and toddlers do. Then, she came up to me, and asked if I were also a family member. The grandpa sitting next to me said, "She's the priest."
"Oh," said the nurse. "So, you will be in charge of the spiritual matters?"
"Ummmm.... No, not really," I said. The nurse looked confused. The grandpa started to laugh. "God's in charge of that --I'm just a facilitator," I said, smiling. She waved her hand at me, like she had no time for a joke...
Except, it's not really a joke.... It's not even a joke....
At prayer this morning (from Acts 17)
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.
‘In him we live and move and have our being.’
So, if we live, we live in God. And if we die, we die in God, so then, whether we live or die, we belong to God....
On my way home, I pulled off the road close to a cell tower and checked in with someone in Eagle Butte. 'He died at 3pm --he just died now,' she said. I looked at my car clock --it was 3:15. 'Okay. Thank you.' I pushed the 'off' button on the cell phone....
--I stepped out of the car, turned and looked at the horizon in every direction, said the prayers for at the time of death, and then stood still....
At the comfort service last night, the young woman came in and set down a baby carrier with a bundle in it... I gasped. In the midst of the ICU beeping and pinging, I had gone after someone to relay a message --on the second floor... the maternity ward.
And here she was --carrying in her arms the baby boy she had delivered. She couldn't take her eyes off of him.... The father hovered close by....
'They must have high-fived ---one on the way in, one on the way out, passing each other,' the grandma said, laughing.
'Yeah --something like that,' I said, and bent over and stared at the infant, swaddled tightly and strapped in to the carrier.... Here you are, I thought... Here you are, child of God... his eyes deep and momentarily focused.... Are you the one? I asked... Are you the one?