The card says that the blanket has been blessed by a chaplain. The blanket is part of a bereavement program at our hospital, a way to offer support to families and friends who are walking out of the hospital after watching someone they love die.
A blanket, a hand print, a memory of the heartbeat doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t do the one thing that deep down we all want, for people to be fixed and not die.
But the process reminds staff to slow down for the family’s sake and their own. And it gives a family, if they want it, something to hold onto.
So how does a chaplain bless a blanket? Are there magical powers that can infuse the blanket like lavender essential oils? Am I creating a holy object that, when it touches the person, heals them?
That was happening in Ephesus during Paul’s work there. People would take handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him to people who were sick and they were cured.
When I touch blankets, I don’t expect the same result. But a couple times I’ve had the opportunity to bless a pile of blankets, made by people who care for people who need care.
As I touch each blanket, moving it from one pile to another, I say something like, “God, the next time a Chaplain sees these blankets, a person will be dying. These will be touched by patient techs and nurses, family members and respiratory therapists, and a person who will not live much longer. God, will you care for each of those people as they offer care, as they wrestle in these moments? Will you give them peace that passes understanding, courage for loving one another? And will you let people know that you love them? In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
The blankets aren’t more holy. But the situations in which they will be present have been mentioned to God. And that is holy.