Last week, we had four people in the same hospital: a hit and run, a baby born early, and two broken bodies driven to madness by broken minds. I cannot fathom what it would be like to feel my flesh and bones give way to a rush of metal, to give birth to a child without a home, to be haunted by voices no one else hears. I walked the sterile, weaving, windowless hallways feeling heavy, reminding myself I cannot fix people.
By Emily Brazzel, OTN Chaplain in Residency
Shared with permission.
In TV scripts, chaplains often walk into the hospital waiting room right before the doctor tells a family that their loved one has died. Or in a scene with a military family, the chaplain is the one at the door breaking the news that their soldier isn’t coming home. Because of this depiction, we are often seen as some sort of “angel of death.”
Honestly, there is some truth to that.
At my previous job as a hospital chaplain, I would see people panic when they looked at my name badge. One time I reassured a family, as I often did, that I did not only respond to deaths but tried to be available to anyone who needed extra support. That was true. But I also knew that their loved one was actively dying just down the hall and I had been sent there because the doctor was about to give them an update. I figured it was best to allow them a few minutes of peace.
Being that an angel of death just goes with the territory. I do think that it is best to have a sensitive and trained person present when traumatizing news is being announced—but being trained doesn’t make it easy for anyone, including me. It is no easier to be present with someone facing the loss of a home, community, or the dangers of living outside.
When I met my friend Mr. Anthony, I thought I was there to walk with him through a season of death. He has been a part of the Open Table community since the start and has had a home for the last four years. Right around the time I came onto the team, it became clear that he was going to lose his home. Everything he had including his beloved dog and his health was being threatened. I heard of how he was fighting to change his landlord’s mind and to keep from being pulled under by depression.
Last week when we spoke, he told me of his current significant struggles and of the joys that had popped up in their midst. At the end of our conversation, Mr. Anthony prayed aloud, “Thank you God for life!” It was such a powerful moment to me. This man knows full well how very dark life can get, yet he was testifying to the beauty and gift that life can be.
To Mr. Anthony’s prayer I would like to add my own: Thank you God for interrupting my focus and sending a messenger to show me that even in the darkest of times, there is a light which has the upper hand. Though death is certainly in our midst, life is indeed a gift.
Thank you God for life!