Lesson from a Hospital Bed
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 (NIV)
Recently I served my first week in a monthly rotation as Chaplain to Upson Regional Medical Center. Upon being asked to serve by the Upson County Ministerial Association and the Hospital to do so, I quickly answered, “Sure, no big deal right?” Just go in pray for a few folks, no biggie. Boy was I ever wrong. I did not realize I was embarking on a life changing experience.
I found myself twice in my first week performing a sort of “Last Rites” for two gentlemen. One was an elderly gentlemen of 98 years. He had lived his life full and was, according to the family, “Ready to go be with the Lord.” All his family were there with him in the final hours. I was basically asked to come in and pray for the gentlemen to have peace and to just offer grace to the family. If one could say it, it was actually a good time. It was a time of release and of sharing love with one another.
However, it was the second visit that changed my life forever and broke my heart. I was asked to see another gentleman with the same circumstance. He was only 55 years of age and being kept alive only by respirator. In fact, they were about to take him off and make the trip to hospice where it was certain he would not make it through the night. I asked about his family and that is where I got the shock of my life. When I asked about his family I was told, “He has none.” The gentleman was from out of state and had been estranged from his family from many years. He only had one friend in town. My heart dropped. Talk about the lost, the least and the lonely.
With that being said, I am not naïve enough to believe this type of situation does not occur. However, I will admit that I was not prepared. I am blessed enough to have a loving family. Also, I have been blessed enough, even with 27 years of ministry, to be with persons with family. I found myself leaving the hospital in tears of sadness. I learned two valuable lessons last week. First, never take family for granted. No one likes being alone. Secondly, I found a new respect and honor for Chaplains. You guys do this stuff daily and I admire your grace even more so now.
Father Mike Birdsong
Pastor, St. Michael and All Angels Charismatic Episcopal Church