Sunday, July 29, 2007

The phone rang

about half way through lunch.
"This is the staff nurse on X ward ... As the duty chaplain, I wondered if you could come over. We've a lady on the ward whose daughter has died suddenly, and the family would like your support as they break the news"

Suddenly inadequacy took on a whole new meaning.
So did fervent prayer as I drove to the hospital.
What words could I possibly bring to this situation that might make any difference at all?
I envisgaged myself standing there, a tongue-tied lump of well-meaning ineptitude, set to confirm all the worst clerical stereotypes.
Then I looked at my hands, and remembered the grace that had been prayed down on me at my priesting, felt again the cross marked on each palm in oil...and dared to hope.
I knew I was only involved because God had put me there. I dared to believe that God actually wanted me to be of service to these people in this awful situation, and that, therefore, it would somehow be alright.

As I got out of the lift, the family were waiting. Tearful but calm they told me their sister's story, and shared their fears that the shock of the news would harm their mother's already precarious health. We agreed that there was no good way to hear such tidings, that we were all to some extent out of our depths. They accepted my offer to pray before we went in, that the right words would come, that D would be given the strength to hear the news and the comfort of feeling God's love with her even as she mourned.

It's not often that I'm so aware of prayer being heard there and then.

D was clearly shaken to the core, but infinitely gracious in her care for her family and for me
"This must be so hard for you...I don't expect this was in your plans for Sunday"
She told me their family story - one of so much love, of welcome to many foster children beyond her own large brood, of struggle and of generosity in the face of hardship.
We talked about how love carries us through when things make no sense, when pain is almost insurmountable...about God standing beside us in the sadness...weeping with us.
We told Him how we were feeling, and asked for a lasting sense of his love to carry us through the weeks ahead.

I told them nothing they didn't know, but in their generosity they welcomed my presence, and told me my prayers helped.
I learned so much this afternoon.


RevDrKate said...

Whew! Isn't it amazing when we go into these situations remembering Who it is that brings us there how things often go...and we sometimes are not only ministers but ministered to as well?

liz said...

Bless you Kathryn. Hope you are recovering. That family were very lucky to have you beside them as well as God. Wish there was more symbolism in our Scottish presbyterian ordination. how moving yet uplifting to feel empowered as you did.

Claire Robson said...

Well done. And thank you for being who you are

Songbird said...

What a beautiful way of expressing both how we get there and what we need to do when we arrive. Thank you.

Sophia said...


I read this with a great deal of interest after remembering that you have mentioned being envious of the CPE programs in the US in the past...

This sounds very much like a CPE type experience to me, where one learns once again a new way in which God guides us in the work we are called to do.

It sounds like your presence and your prayers became the gift of God standing alongside this family. What a sacred moment to share with this family!