Last Tuesday I went up to Coupeville for my regular volunteer chaplaincy stint, a pleasant duty that usually takes no longer than an hour or so, as the hospital is small and often isn't very busy. And last Tuesday seemed to be one of those days---until I walked into a room where an old woman lay comatose and two middle-aged daughters sat by her bed.
They needed to talk. Their mother had had her health concerns but until this sudden stroke, she'd always recovered and been back on her feet. This time was different, they said, and they were trying to be hopeful but it looked like things would never be the same. Would they have to quit jobs and move closer, to take care of her? Would their lives ever be the same? Would she die suddenly and everything would change in a different, no less sorrowful, way? She had always been there for them, she was only in her 70s, what would they do without her guiding hand?
We talked for over an hour, the two sisters trying to come to terms with this impending loss, trying to decide what they should do, trying to be positive though nothing felt good at that point. I offered to pray with them and we all went back to their mother's room, where she lay unconscious, and we prayed together for strength to cope with the losses which loomed, that this beloved mother's life would now continue in whatever way was best for her, even if that meant that she did not recover consciousness.
When I left, I was struck by how casually sometimes I take this chaplaincy, because it is often just a matter of chatting up bored patients. It's often not "real" ministry, because it's hard to count swapping jokes about TV "ministry". But ever so often, something makes me realize that every moment spent with people who are in pain is real ministry, no matter what the topic.
This morning, our board president came up to my house with his 4 wheel drive and we went together up to the church. Going up to unlock the front door, I found a note to me, pinned down by a board, a bit damp from having been out in the weather for a day.
It said, in essence: "Rev. Kit, you visited us in Whidbey General Hospital last week and spoke with my sister and I and you prayed with my mom. Can we talk to you again? We have no prayer or spiritual support. Can you help? Here are our phone numbers."
If we hadn't gone up to the church today, chances are I wouldn't have found this note at all, as it was in danger of being obliterated by the weather. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
Excuse me while I make a phone call.