Dr. Jacqueline M. Pressey
Entry #28: Melodies from Heaven!
What does one do as a hospital chaplain when you get a melody stuck in your head? Well, on one of my patient visits that melody turned into a bedside memorial miracle concert. “A melody is a succession of pitches in rhythm. The melody is usually the most memorable aspect of a song, the one the listener remembers and is able to perform. For the listener one hears the melody as a single entity,” (Berklee Online, 2020). Welcome to a patient’s bedside memorial miracle account from a chaplain’s view point and perspective. It was a code page that I received during one of my Saturday on-call overnights. The page came from the nurse’s station. When I called the nurses station back, I was given the details of an African American male in his mid-50’s who would be transitioning, soon, which is called, "comfort care". I was told that he had a lot of visitors and would I come to help navigate them. I stated, yes, I’m on my way. Now this was my 1st on-call code page for the night. It was still day light when I arrived to the patient’s room. Once I was on the unit, I saw that he basically had a crowd in the hallway of his room. And when I got into the room there were at least eight individuals in the room, which is not allowed by the hospital rules and guidelines.
When I entered the room, there were two individuals standing at his bedside and a group of individuals that were standing by the window. Everyone was crying and holding each other. The room was emotionally charged, with sadness, because they had been told that he would pass soon, before I got to his room. I introduced myself, hello I’m Chaplain Pressey, the nurses station called me to assist you. And then I was silent, the room was so full of emotions that I just became quiet in the mist of it. I knew that I was suppose to clear the room and the hallway of the people. Before I went into the room, I asked the nurses station for the conference room for the overflow of people. I had every intention of using it. In situations like this the hospital will provide families with a conference room with refreshments. So, I got this in place when I saw how many people were present before I entered the room.
At this point, I’m now standing at the patient’s bedside, across from his wife and his daughter. They were both closely standing by each other with their hands on the bed rail. I looked at them and around the room as individuals were sobbing. In that moment I was quietly praying for the Lord’s guidance because there were absolutely know words that came to me to say. Then I just closed my eyes and the miracle began, I just started softly singing under my breath. Then the next thing I hear is the mother and daughter singing with me. I opened my eyes and I watch the hospital room being filled with singers singing, too. The other group of people at the window had also started singing and moved closer to the bed behind the mother and daughter, singing.
Singing filled the room, weeping had ceased, the singing had now spilled out into the hallway crowd. The crowd of visitors tightened up around the door and they sang with us. His wife led the next song, I then realized that I was singing with a choir, it was amazingly beautiful. Then in between singing, we started talking, the wife began to share who her husband was. To my surprise, she told me that he was a Pastor, Worship Leader, and composer. We chatted for a few more minutes, I was trying to listen to her, but all of a sudden a song came into my head. Brace yourself, my readers you are entering into the miracle zone of this blog entitled, “Melodies from HEAVEN! I was struggling with the words and melody of the song that was in my head. So, I stated to the unconscious patient’s wife that I had some words to a song, that I have know idea of how to sing it. I could hear a bit of the melody in my head, but I couldn’t make it out.
The patient’s wife asked me to just say the words, and maybe she might know it. So, I started saying the words from my head and she stopped me, and stated that her husband wrote what I was saying. And she would feed me the rest of the words as I sang it with her. Let me repeat what was happening, again. I was singing a song that the patient, her husband wrote. Everyone in the room knew the song and was singing it, as her husband peacefully passed away. The nurse came into turn off the machines and she whispered in my ear, asking me to see another patient on the floor when I was done. Who had woken up from a month-long coma, singing with us. I told her yes; I’ll see him when I was done. What do you say to being a witness and a participant of a real-life bedside miracle that spilled out into other patient rooms. The blessing of this patient’s transition, became a blessing to other patients on the unit. Other’s asked to see me on the unit once I completed my chaplain responsibilities with the Pastor patient, his family, and church choir members. Mind you, I knew none of that when I answered this code page. And by the way, I saw about 4 other patients on that unit before I left the floor for the night. Also, just for closure of this miracle experience, for your information the coma patient who woken out of a 30-day coma was sitting up smiling in his bed when I came into see him.
Comforting one with music and a scriptural song can be a biblical principle and a prayer.
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a
broken spirit drieth the bones, (Proverbs 17:22, KJV).
Over the years, I have used many songs as prayers during patient visits. I have even played them from my phone for patients to listen to while I talked or prayed with them. Sometimes music can soothe one’s heart, calm one’s fears, and reach one’s heart in the mist of a health crisis, distress, and/or trauma. I had earned the name, “the singing chaplain,” on some of the units in the hospital. The pastoral department would sometimes get request for the singing chaplain/me. I would just smile and take the request. Ministering with music sometimes provided me with a necessary entry gate to providing pastoral/spiritual care to the patients that I served when it was needed and welcomed.
My personal reflection of this pastoral experience, I believe that I was an instrument of ministry for this family. I was used to usher/provide the foundation for a miracle for them as a means of comfort. And I also had the privilege of witnessing the miracle, too. I will never forget the brilliant glow in the room as we sang the Pastor’s original song as he quietly transitioned to glory. The verse of a song that comes to my mind as I’m closing out this blog, from the song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus!” “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer,” (Scriven, J., 1855). It was 1st a poem that he wrote to comfort his mother. The poem was inspired by the bible verse:
Be careful for nothing; but in everything by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let
your requests be made known unto God
(Philippians 4:6, KJV).
And then the poem later became a Hymn, which was composed by Charles Crozat Converse in 1868. I have often stated that serving as a hospital chaplain isn’t for the faint of heart. We must be willing to think outside of the box in a moment's notice in order to provide comfort and pastoral care to those who are suffering. Spiritual care is just that, using whatever means that are necessary to reach our patients and provide supportive comfort to all that needs it. For me, I close with knowing that I received and witnessed a miraculous miracle during a patient’s bedside memorial. I will never forget it!
To my chaplain peers and family be comfortable in your own skin & faith tradition. We’re made for this and were clinically trained for many moments like this one and more. May the melodies from heaven continue to rain down on each one of you as you serve others. Have a fabulous holiday season, and remember each one reach one!
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
work with becoming extraordinary, through pursuing EXCELLENCE!
Scriven, J., 1855. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” (1855). Retrieved
December 19, 2022 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_a_Friend_We_Have_in_Jesus
Berklee Online, (2020). What is Melody in a Song? Retrieved December 19, 2022