I was in the emergency department, making some last connections between family and staff after a trauma. The pager buzzed. Fifth floor.
Fifth floor could be a death, but probably not. It could be a need for a notary, maybe for someone wanting to talk to a chaplain. I’d been on that floor earlier that evening, but I was sure that I had taken care of the need. I called the nurse.
“I have a patient,” she said, pausing to find the right words. “She’s talking about being ready to be done. And she’s not wanting to eat. Maybe you could make some kind of a connection with her.”
“I’ll be up as soon as I can,” I said.
I checked the chart before heading for the elevator. I won’t climb more than three floors at a time. No one wants a chaplain gasping for breath when walking into the room. I didn’t find any clues.
I knocked. “I’m Jon, I’m one of the chaplains,” I said.
She waved me into the room. She was sitting in a chair, leaning forward a little. “I’m ready to get into the bed,” she said. I told her I could call the nurse, but she pointed to the other chair. “That’s okay.”
“I love the Lord,” she said. “I love Father, Son and Spirit.”
I smiled. Most people are not so specifically trinitarian.
“I’m ready to go,” she said. She told me how old she was, in her tenth decade. “I broke my hip. That’s usually the end for older folks.” There was no despair, no lament, no regret. “God’s been good to me for all these years.” And we talked a little about that.
I pointed to the bottle of Ensure on her table. “Is it hard to eat?” She nodded. “I try,” she said. “But sometimes it just doesn’t taste right.”
We talked about where she lives, about her church. “Started in 1858,” she said. We talked a little more, about God (in three persons), about life. She was awake and present and the best kind of ready to be done. Not in desperation but in confidence. Not rushing things (the nurse’s concern, I think) but not clinging.
“May I pray?” I asked. She nodded. I prayed for strength, for peace, for an awareness of the presence of God, all three persons. It was clear that she had glimpses of the fullness of God that I did not.
“Can I tell someone you want to get into bed?” I asked.
“I need the bathroom,” she said. Even saints have bladders. I pointed to the call light, she pushed the button, I said good night.
And it was.