My primary responsibility on an overnight shift, of course, is responding to pager alerts that let me know there has been a request for a chaplain. These are usually simple things like asking for a Bible or other kind of scriptures, to special moments when patients ask to be taught or to discuss something spiritual. There are lots and lots of requests for prayer, and I am often asked to provide a song or some kind of music as well. I attend all the extubations, when people are removed from life support, and all the code blues.
But this code blue isn’t for my baby, not today.
It’s my first time back in the hospital as a chaplain since spending seven weeks with the chaplains in Ohio, as we prayed for that baby’s life.
I have worked an ER shift since getting home, but that’s a whole different kind of busy.
But the chaplain shift is a long one of empty hallways, families with empty arms, and patients with hungry hearts.
When I am not getting paged to a crisis or a request, I do “random” visits that never turn out to be very random. While it is scary, at first, to just visit random rooms, the Spirit always reveals why I am there and what needs to be said and done.
I try also to use my time well, being a good steward of my family while away. When there is time I am not being paged, I work on homework. Last night I finished my evals, and wrote some articles, and practiced my next talk (which is already giving me hives). This frees me up so much so that I can really be home when I get there.
Being back tonight floods me with memories. I remember dramatic stories that landed patients in the burn unit, and dramatic farewells in the ICU. I remember faces of courage from the heart center, and the struggle for hope on the oncology floor. I think of people I referred to inpatient psych from the ER back home, and I think of those fighters on the physical rehab building who just want their lives back.
I look across the way from my office and see the women’s center, and think of the babies I held as they died, and the day our Baby Girl was born and expected to die but didn’t.
I will never forget that day, or the prayers I whispered with my hand on her tiny head, or the promises still to keep, or the helicopter I watched her fly away in, not knowing if I would ever see her again alive, not knowing I would bring her home in a car seat bed 51 days later, not knowing she would then only be home three weeks before I was taking the next flight with her.
She’s so big now! She’s doing so much! She’s as crazy as me!
Again, she’s been home for three glorious weeks, and today turns five months old.
Again, she is starting to struggle for air and fight to breathe.
And for some reason this morning, the music playing in the cafeteria happens to be the Beaches soundtrack, which I am not sure is entirely helpful.
I grieved my parents in this place, where I watched other families go through what my family went through when my father died, where I spent nights across the street from where I was told my mother expired, and in long, dark nights helping families as we eased their loved ones into death through the labor pains of releasing their spirits to the other side.
I will never forget this place, or what I learned here, or how I healed here.
I think I am more me, the me my parents knew long ago, and more prepared for work I will continue later in my church ministry.
I am more whole, more quiet, more soft-ish somehow.
I am grateful, so grateful, but I am also quietened.
I know the power that comes from seeking sacred spaces, from praying and caring with one’s whole soul, from witnessing the miracles of a body and spirit be stitched back together in resurrection – or the threads pulled loose like the strings of a crocheted sweater.
Oh, and my hair grew back!
A lot can happen in a night, or in a moment.
Every moment matters.
Each of us matters.
… it may be true that man is nothing in comparison to the greatness of the universe.
At times we may even feel insignificant, invisible, alone, or forgotten.
But always remember—you matter to Him!
… He has chosen “the weak things of the world [to] come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones” and to put to shame “the things which are mighty.”
… no matter where you live, no matter how humble your circumstances, how meager your employment, how limited your abilities, how ordinary your appearance, or how little your calling in the Church may appear to you, you are not invisible to your Heavenly Father. He loves you. He knows your humble heart and your acts of love and kindness. Together, they form a lasting testimony of your fidelity and faith.
… please understand that what you see and experience now is not what forever will be. You will not feel loneliness, sorrow, pain, or discouragement forever. We have the faithful promise of God that He will neither forget nor forsake those who incline their hearts to Him. Have hope and faith in that promise. Learn to love your Heavenly Father and become His disciple in word and in deed.
Be assured that if you but hold on, believe in Him, and remain faithful in keeping the commandments, one day you will experience for yourselves the promises revealed to the Apostle Paul: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
Brothers and sisters, the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love.
God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him.
May we ever believe, trust, and align our lives so that we will understand our true eternal worth and potential. May we be worthy of the precious blessings our Heavenly Father has in store for us is my prayer in the name of His Son, even Jesus Christ, amen.