The adult daughter/sister of one of my dear parishioner families passed today after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. She had just moved back home a week ago and we didn't think it would happen this quickly. She took a bad turn yesterday and it went downhill from there.
It is such a horrible and wonderful thing to walk with people at this time. The pain is enormous. The fear and the shock and the grief are unbearable. And yet there are moments of great grace that get us through.
- The doctor who understood completely that the family was ready to end heroic measures, consistent with the wishes of the patient. When the family conveyed these wishes, the doctor said, "That is a very selfless decision, and I understand it and agree with you."
- The nurse who tenderly cared for the dying woman through some very nasty things today, and who kept the family informed as to what was happening as if she were a hospice nurse (this was in the CICU). After K passed, we found out her own father had died just three weeks earlier. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, she was utterly and gracefully present to the family as well as the patient.
- The church family, who prayed for God's will and for comfort for the whole family, and who wanted to know what was needed or what they could do. The day before, one parishioner ran into a member of the family and said, "I'm offering you body parts. I will be your shoulder to cry on, your ears to listen, your hands and feet to help."
- In the midst of this today, I had to go to another hospital a few miles away to visit another critically ill patient - yes, this week has been like that - and when I told the woman about what was happening in the other place, she wanted to know what she (sitting in another ICU) could do to help the family.
And there's always chocolate. Amen.