CPE-14 – The Final Days

I visited my last patient on Friday. I cannot remember the last time I felt so happy that something was ending. I think hospital chaplaincy is an important ministry, and I know, from what patients have told me, that I made a big difference in some of their lives, thankfully.
It isn’t so much that I do not like visiting patients – that is okay in-and-of-itself. This is not, however, my ministry. I am not enlivened, strengthened, or energized by doing this stuff. In fact, I am exhausted by it.
I have had the privilege of meetings some very interesting people. I have had the privilege of praying over and reading to comatose patients who had no one else present with them. I have had the privilege of being with patients when they died – with them when they passed, watching, waiting, present with the body even after all the doctors and nurses have left. I have listened a lot, talked a lot, and prayed a lot – all very worthwhile. I am just glad it is almost over.
I responded to a medical code one recent afternoon. There were 10 doctors and nurses working to revive the patient, a very emaciated elderly man with MAC. I stood outside the door for an hour looking in, the room filled with staff and equipment. I prayed for them and the patient. I talked with a couple of the resident interns and the social worker. At one point, one resident asked if I wanted to go in the room even while the staff continued to attempt to revive the patient, but I said, “I will be soon whether he survives or dies.” Survives or dies. I was there for the patient either way, even when the doctors and nurses could do no more for their patient. Who else will wait with a person when all have given up? He had no family that was willing to claim him. There may no longer be breath, no longer blood flowing, but this mass of chemical compounds was still wonderfully and fearfully made in the very image of God, worthy of dignity and respect.
So, next week is all about wrapping-up. Final evaluations will be on Monday and Tuesday. A memorial service, exit interview, and group lunch will be on Wednesday, then, finally, the Health Care Chaplaincy’s final banquet on Thursday. That’s it. My CPE experience will be completely over. Hospital chaplains do make an incredible difference in the lives of many patients.
Oh, I am on-call today until 11:00 pm tonight. Who knows what could happen between now and then…

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