Entry 8: Memories as Memorials
There are moments as a hospital chaplain when one experience's entering the room of a patient, and their family that has been given the statement by the doctor that, “there is nothing more that we can do for your loved one, but keep them comfortable. Early in my hospital chaplaincy ministry, I received a mid-day code page while I was doing normal patient visits that day. I believe this story account was in my second year of serving and my 1st time that I had experienced a miracle like this. I entered the patient’s room of a 60 something white Caucasian male. Before I entered the patients room, I was given some details about the patient, the nurse stated that, “the patient has been in a coma for a few weeks, we have done all that we can, his body systems are starting to shut down and we have taken him off life support, but he’s breathing on his own for now.” She also said that the family had been told that it wouldn’t be long for him to pass.
Walking to the door of the patient’s room, I began to pray and brace myself for what I was going to have to do to try to comfort them. But I stopped at the door before I knock because I could hear sobbing and talking coming from the room. I waited for just a few seconds and I knocked and entered at the same time. There were several family members upset and standing around the patient’s bed. I stood in the door to introduce myself to the family. There were three females standing together at the foot of the bed crying and hugging each other and there were two males standing with each other at the head of the bed of the patient by the vitals monitor. There were a total of five individuals that would later become active participants in providing a bedside memorial that the patient could hear during this visit. I asked who everyone was to the patients and I was told that the three women were his daughter’s and the two men were the patient’s brother and a husband of one of the daughter’s.
To break the cycle of tears and sorrows for a moment, I wanted to get some information about the patient. I asked them to tell me about the patient so that I would know how to pray a more personal prayer for him and his family. But, actually, I wanted to get them talking about memories, stories, and finally to approach staying goodbye to the patient. I told them that in spite of the patient being in a coma that he could still hear them, so whatever they needed to say would be a good time to do so then. It started slowly at 1st, one of the daughters said I can’t and walked out of the room crying, so I followed her before I started talking with all of the others. What I learned in talking with the oldest daughter, she started telling me a little bit about her dad. She also said, tearfully that she hadn’t told him that she was pregnant since he had been sick. I said you need to tell him now, and whatever else you need to say, all of you need to say your goodbyes.
We returned into the room with the others, there was a few minutes of silence. I asked the patient's name. When they told me that his nick name was, “Stormin the biker.” I smiled and asked them to tell me about him. Then it started; the sweet aroma of stories began to flow out of each of them. They started laughing at some of the things that one another were saying. They started finishing and adding in details of family events where the patient had done some really crazy and funny things to their family. It was wonderful, we lost track of time and the reality that this patient was dying. Although, I had noticed that his vitals had started improving doing the family funny memories. This is what I call, a bedside Memorial of memories for Stormin the biker. They had me laughing with them, then I said that each one of them needed to say what they needed to say to Stormin the biker. I knew that the oldest daughter needed and wanted to tell him that he was going to be a grandfather.
Some of the family members shared their heartfelt words, some were somber but others were funny of some of the things that they shared about the patient. The oldest daughter walked to the head of the bed closer to her father, she leaned over him and took his hand. She was going to tell him that she was pregnant and that he was going to be a grandfather. I stood at the foot of the bed and shouted loudly, “Stomin the biker you need to wake up to hear this. God, gave them a miracle, he woke up slowly, turned his head slightly to look at his daughter. Of course, the room fell apart for a few moments but the pregnant daughter said daddy, I love you and I want you to know that I’m finally pregnant, you’re going to be a grandfather. A beautiful silence was in that room, both the father and daughter just looked at each. The patient never said a word, tears were rolling down his cheeks. Nothing else needed to be said, they had given the patient a bedside Memorial of memories that miraculously woke him up. The patient’s family will never forget what they witnessed that day. By the way, he didn’t pass that evening either. So, I left the family with being given hugs and many thanks. I said goodbye to the patient and all of them knowing that I had provided the spiritual care that God wanted them to have. A bedside, memorial of memories that encompassed moments of laughter, tears, revelations, sadness, acceptance, and goodbye.
The flow of God is absolutely amazing. Pastoral spiritual care is completely guided by our Father if you let Him. “Do this in remembrance of me,” as the Lord directs us to commune with him.
“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take,
eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance
of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had
supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do
ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me,” (1 Corinthians 11: 24-25).
“Do this, in remembrance of me,” is a call to remember, it is a call on one to recall a memory. A memory is defined as, "the faculty by which the brain encodes, stores, and retrieves information. It is a record of experience for guiding future action." Whereas, memories enlarge the definition as, “the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions, etc., or of recalling or recognizing previous experiences. And the reputation of a person or thing, especially after death; fame.” This is the power of remembrance it can be called on at anytime during our lifetime when needed. When you combine memories as a memorial, one creates a living organism of “something that keeps remembrance alive: such as memories, monuments of honor. KEEPSAKE, MEMENTO, RECORD, MEMOIR." Having a bedside memorial can be a very scared moment for everyone involved. You provide an intimate closure in which the patient/dying individual to be included in the moment. It actually provides emotional closure for the loved one also. Grieving a loss of a loved one knowing that you were able to say everything that needed to be said, is a comforting aspect during ones own grieving process. As a spiritual care facilitator my observation of this event was powerful and impactive for all that participated in that miraculous moment that caused the patient, their dad to wake up. It took place within the joys and laughter of their recalling their family memories. Having a choice, I would take a bedside memories memorial over a funeral any day because the memorial would allow the individual passing an opportunity to hear about one’s legacy accomplishments that are being left. Live a life of legacy building on purpose! Please feel free to share your comments and/or insight.
Here’s a sneak preview, for the month of July 2020, I will be sharing previous edition as a summer break. I will return in August with a new edition entitled, “I’m Enough!” 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
work with becoming extraordinary, through pursuing EXCELLENCE!"
Psychology Today, (2020). What Is Memory? Sussex Publisher, LLC Retrieved on July 1
Merriam Webster (2020). Retrieved July 1, 2020 from https://www.merriam-