I'm on call. The pager buzzes. I jot down the number on my pad then quickly dial. "Hello," says a voice. "It's the chaplain," I respond. "We've had a death here in our unit," she says.
I make my way weaving through the corridors to a familiar family waiting room and gently open the door. Looking back at me is, surprisingly, a familiar face. Something is wrong. I'm used to caring for strangers, bearing their grief when they cannot, holding them up when they cannot stand. But this face is no stranger. "Hi Nathan," she says with a defeated painful expression.
That day I sat with a friend, a co-worder, in a little room during the death of her husband. I looked into her fragile familiar eyes as they looked back at mine searching for strength, for hope. I sat next to her in the same way I've sat next to her for the past four months.
This was too close to home.
There was no stopping the tears in my own eyes as my heart broke into pieces, as her arms wrapped around me, as we couldn't believe the horror--the same horror she's observed so many times before.
But this time she saw grief from the inside out. You might say we chaplains are experts in grief, but when it strikes us there is no bonus relief from its pain. We too must suffer through it.
I could hardly be a chaplain to her, a chaplain to a chaplain. I was a friend, a friend who sat with her in that horribly sacred moment. My heart wrentched. Every time she fell apart, I did on the inside. It was almost too much grief to bear. It was one of the hardest calls I've ever had to take. I shall not forget her eyes, her tears or her desperate embrace.
Dear friend, we love you, and our hearts break with you. Prayerfully, Nathan