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It Is To Such As These The Kingdom Belongs

Twice a week following morning devotions in chapel, the hospital chaplains, chaplain residents and interns gather with our CPE Supervisors and Advisor in 1B18 (the office for Spiritual Care) for something called Morning Report (MR).  This is the time when On-Call chaplains covering rotations present a call or visit to the group. 

Of late, it seemed most all of my CPE colleagues had been called upon to offer the ministry of presence to newborns, their parents, and the hospital staff in the NeoNanal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Often times, it sadly involved ministration at the time of death.  This past MR, there were several reports given by different chaplains.  Quite honestly, I hoped that would be one opportunity from which I would be spared, but I understood it was something I should anticipate.

Well, that unwanted experience came tonight.

After the NICU called and I was readying to go downstairs, I started interceding for a child unknown to me, but already treasured by God.  My heart began to ache as I thought of parents losing their child way, way too soon.  I prayed that God would gift me with whatever I needed tin order to be a non-anxious pastoral presence for child, parents, doctors, nurses, technicians and staff.

After scrubbing in, a nurse led me to an incubator where the medical team was working.  The body was so tiny.  A doctor intently watched overhead monitors while one nurse performed compressions and another worked the bag for air.  I wasn't there a minuted before there was talk regarding "15 minutes."  It seemed a pre-determined time had been set to pronounce the time of death, given there was no significant change to the situation. 

The parents had not yet arrived, so I asked if anyone knew the family's faith background.  No one recalled mention of a specific denomination, but the doctor was pretty sure they were Christian.  When I asked if the baby boy had been named, a nurse pointed to the small sign taped to the incubator cover now suspended overhead.  Flipping my BCP to the Ministration at the Time of Death, I glanced at the clock, and then stood behind the doctor with my hand on his shoulder. 

Almighty God, look on this your servant R., lying in great weakness, and comfort him with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Deliver your servant, R., O Sovereign Lord Christ, from all evil, and set him free from every bond; that he may rest with all your saints in the eternal habitations; where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

When the doctor checked the time and prepared to pronounce, I began:
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant R.  Acknowledge , we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your won redeeming.  Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.  Everyone present said, "Amen."

Then, a nurse left quickly, having seen the mother and father furiously scrubbing up to enter the NICU.  The doctor gently, but directly told the parents that, in spite of all efforts taken, their son had "expired."  At the sound of that - "expired" - I closed my eyes, thinking to myself, "It's called death, doctor!  Call it what it is!  Things live and things die!"  A short while later, nurses started detaching the sensors and tubes. They carefully prepared a swaddling blanket for the child, and wrapped him so his mother could hold him.  She sat and sobbed while the father rubbed her back and held her close.  He thanked everyone, knowing that they'd done everything they could for their son.

The doctor suggested the family move to a conference room for some privacy since the NICU had other infants requiring care.  I was very conscious of babies crying as we silently slipped through the unit.  I could not begin to imagine what the parents thought or felt, but my heart hurt for them.  When the conference room door opened at the end of the hall, it was apparent the consultation going on there did not realize they were being evicted.  As they vacated the room, the mother, father and son, along with the doctor and chaplain took their space. 

We sat quietly.  The doctor began asking the requisite questions regarding autopsy and burial.  He again said "expired" which then irked me.  When the mother's sister joined us, the father thought he should make a phone call, and excused himself.  I took his place next to the mother, quietly introduced myself, and said I'd been present to offer prayers before they had arrived.  She thanked me, quietly saying "God called him home."  When the doctor resumed his schpiel, he again caught me off-guard when he said the hospital could "dispose" of the body if the parents so choosed.  As the wife said she wouldn't want either an autopsy or the hospital handling the final arrangements for her son, the father returned.  The discussion ended with a "No" regarding autopsy and "Tomorrow" to discuss plans for burial.

I learned that intubation tubes and IVs remain in place when a baby is sent to the morgue.  The parents were content with the mental pictures they had stored up of their son.  Shortly thereafter, the doctor and I left the family.  I assured them I'd be near by, and would return if they wanted or needed me.  I spoke briefly with the doctor and nurses, thanking them for their ministry, then completed my charting, and sat in the waiting room for another 20 minutes before leaving for the chapel.

"Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The discciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, "Let the llittle children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."  And he laid his hands on them and went on his way." ~ Matt 19: 13-15  

Too soon.  Way, way, way... too soon.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 10th, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC)
Concerning your ministry at the time of death of an infant, you did what God wanted you to do and I am certain that you relieve some of the pain that the parents felt at the time when God called their child to a new home with him. Death comes to all of us, but many hate that word and choose not to use it when they have no idea what is in store for them when they die and God calls them home. Your prayers not only for the little boy and his parents but also for all that tried to extend his days on earth.

I'm proud of you, and I know that your Mother in heaven is looking down saying; "You did great, David."
Aug. 10th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
A lot of people can't hear "death," "died," "passed away," etc when their loved one has died.

I'm sorry. =(
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )