Entry 13: Peek a Boo, I See You!
Updated: Nov 6
The code blue pager calls activate the chaplain’s gifting of God’s presence and the clinical training preparation to serve potential patients that may either be in a medical crisis and/or dying. Sometimes the patient’s loved ones are also present during these life and death moments. When I’m prayerfully rushing to the patient’s room preparing to become an active observer, participant, and a carrier of the presence of God to provide support. Here is a snapshot view from my perspective of what I see, “Peek a Boo, I See You!” When I enter a patient’s room, I may have already been given some preliminary details about what is happening and what to expect. When a patient is actively dying, there are so many things that are taking place silently in the room. My 1st actions is to actively observe and access what is needed. As I look around and feel the spiritual atmosphere in the room, I am praying and discerning what’s my course of action should be. Even with the presence of death (the death angel sent by God) in the room, I still ask in prayer for instructions on preparing the patient to be healed here on earth, or to be heavenly healed by dying.
“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore,
Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:18, KJV)
When patients are dying, they can still ear, so if their loved ones are present, I work toward getting the loved ones to focus on a bedside memorial of memories and saying their earthly goodbyes. At times this can be an extremely difficult task, because loved ones can be overwhelmed emotionally with sobbing, sadness, crying, or clinging to each other in desperation. Believe me, I completely understand that you are losing your loved ones, but I have to also advocate for the needs of your loved one, the patients. It’s my job to attempt to make their last moments on this earth, if possible, as pleasant, calming, peaceful, and inspiring. So, I become the trauma steward of that room. I am very sensitively aware of this extremely painful moment and I absolutely do not take it lightly. It’s a sacred moment for me, too. Yet, I still have to provide the end of life spiritual care and comfort that’s needed in that very tough moment.
Within the room, the lights may sometimes be dimly-lit, the sounds of the life support monitors are loudly present and there may be doctors, nurses, security, the chaplain and loved ones standing bedside or out in the doorway/hallway. I’m always aware of the monitor as I’m ministering to see how close the patient may be to passing. This can give me a bit of a clue as to what needs to take place. When I usher in the time to say goodbye, I’m very spiritually observant at this point. What I see during this moment is how the patients unconscious vitals are responding to the persons who maybe speaking their last words to them. Did you know that patients’ vitals can respond to sounds, voices, music, scripture, readings, prayers, even silence with human touch? There are times when I have gotten concerned and have had to tactfully cut a loved one off if I’ve noticed that they are saying something to the patient that may cause the vitals to start dropping and/or worsen. Which could mean transitioning for the patient or that there may be some possible unresolved issues between the two of them. This is truly not the time to make this about you, or trying to demonstrate that you were closer to a loved one when you actually weren’t. Peek a boo, I can see it!
I can sometime see strained nervous emotional tension between some of the bedside relationships. And the most joyous moments to see is an undying love (let me say that again, “an undying love,” true love should never die) bedside. I can often feel the serene peaceful presence of God that can light up and fill the room of one of His beloved children. So, when the last breath time closens, I may quietly move toward clearing the room of distractions. I will provide the immediate family private time to say their final words, so don’t get mad at me if I ask you to step outside and close the door and the blinds. The major loved ones are now focused on losing their possible, parent, spouse, child or even a close friend, so they may not be aware that you wanted to stay in the room, too. Love them enough to give them that respectful end of life space. Know that if I am present, that I was called for, and I have been assigned to pastorally manage and help all of you through one of the most intimately difficult times of one’s life, death. I’m privileged to serve and prayerfully protective of these precious transitional moments.
Some of my hands-on experiences and duties as a chaplain/pastor have included:
Providing difficult/painful news to individuals and their families or accompanying those who provide this news. An example of this task would be the hospital chaplain who is accompanying the physicians when the family members are being told that their loved one is dying, removing life support decision-making meetings and/or that the patient has already died.
Chaplains who are ordained may also be required to perform religious services, provide classes, last rites, provide sacraments, communions, officiate christenings, baptisms, weddings, and funerals. Providing a christening/baptism for a dying infant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to comfort a parent is what we will do if asked, just to provide them with some spiritual comfort, closure, and compassionate support. I’ve softly and tearfully done it, several times. When death of a NICU infant takes place, I’ve also have had to organize and provide a debriefing grieving meeting for physicians, nurses, and staff. They take the losses of an NICU infant patients very personally hard, too.
In some cases, chaplain/pastors may also support a chapel that offers regular weekly InterFaith services which has a regular congregation of attendees. In such cases, a chaplain effectively operates as both a chaplain and/or a pastor. I’ve also prayed with many individuals weeping in the chapel as they are writing prayer request to leave in our spiritual care prayer basket. By the way, we pray over every single one of those prayer requests that are submitted during every service.
I remember a question that my instructor/supervisor asked during one of my classes, “how does it feel to know that sometimes you are a chaplain/pastor that possibly know one wants to see and/or acknowledge after a trauma?” Until it happens to you, you may not understand this, but for some, the pain of losing a loved one can cause one to want nothing to do with our chaplain/pastoral presence once their intense trauma is over. The death of a loved one can leave some speechless and at times so very angry that they can direct their emotional hurt, pain, and grief towards you the chaplain, because they are hurting. Peek a Boo I See You, I lovingly care and understand that hurting people, can sometime hurt people. But most importantly the ultimate Peek a Boo is when God sees you and He know the good, the bad, and the ugly of each one of us and our lives!
Here’s a sneak preview, “Billows May Roll, The Breaker’s May Dash!” Until next time.
For the sake of the Chaplain’s healing Call!
Chaplain Jacqueline M. Pressey, Ed.D.
"Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your
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