Thursday, November 24, 2005

Dead Tired

Don't worry, I'm not quite dead. I only feel that way most of the time. And dead men, whether they've lost a heartbeat or are just dead tired, don't post.

The lack of posting has not been because I am at a loss for material. As I approach the end of my first unit of CPE, and I look forward to the next three, I have been thinking back to all the encounters I have had through these weeks. Some of them are tattooed onto my memory, and would have made for some good postings here at Baby Priest.

I remember visiting a patient with electronics buried in his brain, connecting wires to a machine that was monitoring his brain activity. He was jacked in like Neo in the Matrix. I secretly wondered what Morpheus he was kung-fu fighting. Would he bend the rules and beat his enemy? Could he make his impossible jump? I never found out. I only visited him once.

I remember a twelve-year-old boy whose seven-year-old brother had just been hit by a van and pinned under it. The mom told me that, just as they were leaving for the hospital, the older brother had asked her to wait while he ran into the house to get his Bible – a hand-me-down, Good Will special with a stranger's name embossed on the front. When I met him he was carrying his Bible in the clear plastic bag in which the hospital staff had put his brother's bloody sneakers. He wouldn't speak a word, but I paced the halls with him anyway.

I've prayed with a mother whose three-year-old baby had been run over and killed by her fifteen-year-old son. The first thing she asked me, as she knelt on the floor, was why Jesus had taken her baby away. Her husband, and the father of both children, didn't make it into the hospital because the death was a coroner's case and there were cops in the ER. Dad had an outstanding warrant, and knew if he came in he would be taken away. The last I saw the family they were waiting on a dark corner away from the hospital, waiting for Dad to pick them up.

I've been in rooms with lonely people, dying people, and dead people.

And I'm dead tired, but it hasn't been because of the major trauma cases. I'm tired because of the simple visits, the cold-calls during my regular rotation through my units. What is killing me is entering the rooms of those who are not expecting a visit. They are the briefest and simplest of all visits. They are often forgettable visits, a simple conversation and a simple prayer. There is nothing all that hard about them. But they are killing me for a reason I don't understand yet. All I know is that it takes all my energy just to cross through that door. I wish I could bend the rules in my favor, keep quiet and cling to the text given to me, or even escape this place.

But none of these are possible. The rules are strict, I am called to prayer in an ever-new and changing world, and I will remain here in the hospital for a while yet.



Blogger Wanderer said...

I suspect the brief ones might be difficult because those are the ones we make where we walk out again and realize that it wasn't really part of our vocation. It was simply doing a job. You learn nothing of the other person. You can't be certain that it made any impact when you've walked away.

It is often harder for us who have drawn upon ourselves the calling to help others to simply walk away from someone without knowing whether, somewhere deeper down, if we scratched below the surface, there might have been something they too needed from us. We don't know though. We walk away because we have to move on.

Then again, I may be really off base and projecting myself onto you. In which case, feel free to contradict.

Friday, November 25, 2005 2:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Preston, you are in my thoughts and my prayers. I completely hear you about the "cold calls"!

My supervisor, Harlan, often chides us for using that term. He points out that by framing the visit thus, we're setting ourselves up for difficulty -- how different might we feel, he asks, if we thought of them as "invitational visits"? He has a point...but I think even under a friendlier name, these visits would be profoundly difficult.

Sunday, November 27, 2005 8:39:00 AM  
Blogger Preston said...

I think it has to do with invitation. Even referrals are easier, because I have some sense that I am welcome in the room. Without invitiation it is harder to present myself.

The other thing I am realising is that to go from an all-night heavy trauma situation to a mundane and routine visit is like going from scaling K2 to climbing a set of stairs.

Might I be a pastoral adrenaline junkie?

Sunday, November 27, 2005 4:31:00 PM  

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