Saturday, February 12, 2011


We had a bad code at the hospital today, one that shook staff as well as family. "This is so surreal," a sobbing relative said later. "You know this day has to come sometime, but you never expect it now."

There were other surreal elements of the shift: a bewildered adult clutching a brightly colored pamphlet entitled "A Parent's Guide to Child Protective Services!"; the two nurses who begged me not to visit a difficult patient who'd finally dropped off to sleep; the patient who, when I said I was the chaplain, said rather crossly, "I just want to know where I'll go after I die."

"Are you afraid of dying?"


"Are you afraid of where you'll go when you do?"

"No! I just want information!" This was said in a tone suggesting that I ought to be able to hand over a brightly colored pamphlet ("A Patient's Guide to the Afterlife!") with precise directions, if not schedules and fares.

I launched into a rather lame disquisition about how nobody really knows anything about the afterlife, but people who've had near-death experiences often report feelings of profound love and peace. The patient responded with eye-rolling and loud sighs. "Forget it! I'm sorry I asked!"

The patient may have been looking for comforting Bible verses about heaven, but cozy piety isn't my style (and I truly believe that's usually a strength in this work). I have no illusions about having all the answers, and I don't pretend I do. That patient needed another kind of chaplain.

All in all, not one of my better shifts. Luckily, a staff chaplain and at least two other volunteers were in the building to do some of the heavy lifting. And next week, weather permitting -- although we're now expecting more storms, oy! -- I'll be on vacation.

Some friends are coming over later for movie night; we're watching "You Only Live Twice" as part of our Bond series. That kind of silliness is exactly what I need right now.


  1. sorry about your day.

    good luck with tomorrow, eh?

  2. The old saying, "you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time" appears to hold true here. Enjoy your movie night and put the day behind did the best you could. Tomorrow is another day.


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