My nine months as a Resident Chaplain end on Thursday, May 31. Over this time I have learned to pick up on cues, to be sensitive to signals spoken and unspoken, as I attempt to care for a patient or family member. This evening, I noticed a cue of my own.
I am on my final overnight shift at the hospital (I arrived at 4:30pm on Saturday, and I’ll be here until 8AM on Sunday morning). In doing rounds I met the grandmother of a man in his twenties who was severely injured following an auto accident. He may permanently lose many bodily functions, if he survives this ordeal at all. And so I sat with this woman and listened to her cries.
After a little bit my beeper went off – another trauma in the Emergency Department – and I left her. As I entered the elevator on my way to the Emergency Department I found myself whistling the song from "Elmo’s World." Immediately my girls, particularly Tali (our 3 year-old), came to mind. I could see her giggling at Elmo’s antics and laughing with Mr. Noodle. A big smile came across my face.
But then a tear entered the corner of my eye. Too easily I was able to imagine myself in that woman’s position – in a hospital, grieving over the pain of my child. What would I do if I were here, with my daughter in the Intensive Care Unit? Holy God, what a wretched thought. Please, take it away from me! Perhaps that’s why I was whistling. Rather than drag me into the emotional morass of pain and suffering, my subconscious moved toward silliness and laughter instead.
I feel twisted and torn. Surely my transference-induced pain is nothing like the angst that woman is experiencing. I merely put a toe in the water of parental pain. She has plungled in it deep.
I’m looking forward to going home tomorrow morning and seeing my girls. Perhaps we’ll watch some TV together. Perhaps we’ll watch Elmo.