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Location: San Antonio, Texas, United States

Jill of all trades, mistress of none.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I walked in the door from work, after a long day, gladly removed my shoes and threw down my purse and work papers. I was greeted by my youngest daughter with a delighted, “Mom, you’re home!” About the time she hugged me, my pager began to beep. My daughter let out a “Oh no!” as I headed to the telephone to call the hospital.

I am on-call for two hospitals at the same time. The hospital nearest my home was calling. The Emergency Department’s unit secretary was on the line and breathlessly uttered, “Chaplain, we need you NOW.” I asked what was happening. “14 year old, suicide attempt. Parents aren’t here yet, but they WILL need you.”

I hugged my ten year old and slipped shoes back onto my feet. I walked out the door uttering a prayer.

I arrived at the hospital and walked into the trauma room to see my patient. The ED physician and two nurses and a respiratory therapist were working feverishly. Her parents had not yet arrived. The Doctor gave me a report and thanked me for coming.

The patient was intubated with iv. lines everywhere. The doctor explained the situation. “This is a 14 year old girl who was found at home hanging from the ceiling fan. We don't know how long she was down. Her mother found her and had to cut her down and call for help. She’s most likely brain dead.”

I felt like I was going to vomit. A flash of horror swept over me as I imagined the scene. Can there be anything worse for a mother to witness?

The doctor walked away and I walked to the bedside. There she lay, brown hair, mottled skin, machines whirring and pumping. God, How? Why? I leaned down and whispered a prayer into her ear. I had no idea if she heard me, but I needed to be mindful of God’s presence.

I turned toward the door to search for the family, when I saw it: her plaid school skirt and white blouse. When your life is one the line in the ED, they cut your clothes off, scissors right down the front. Doesn’t matter if you’re wearing Chanel or rags. Labels are not respected.

But the skirt… it lay on top of the heap on the floor; shoes, blouse, socks, and skirt. The sight of the skirt sliced right through me. The nausea returned as did a horrible realization. This could be my daughter.

One one of my children struggles mightily with anxiety and depression. She is fourteen. She goes to a private school. She wears a plaid skirt.

This is when it sucks to be a chaplain. When the chaos you enter hits too close to home.


Anonymous vici said...

You are a fabulous writer- getting right to the gut of things. My husband is a hospital social worker and your story resonates- the beeper, the entering of someone else's heartache, the blurry lines. What a gift you give- I pray that you know that... I've never forgotten your first post about taking the wedding ring off what I assumed was a dead person's finger. The image- so right to the bone- has stayed with me. It was months before I could read it aloud to my husband- he could only groan in recognition... I am thrilled whenever I see that you've posted. I will pray for your daughter. My son has Asperger's and struggles also with depression and anxiety- I know something of the fear as a child grows up and the battles within become more complex, the stakes so much higher... I feel blessed to have found your husbands blog and by that- yours. Keep your posts coming.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! The transference must have been soul-rocking. It takes my breath away.


10:04 PM  
Blogger Hugh said...

I would have fallen apart.

That girl and that family was indeed lucky to have you there.


4:51 AM  
Blogger Africakid said...

For the sake of the 14 year old's family, I'm glad you're so empathetic. But it takes its toll, doesn't it? Hope you soon get some inner rest after that hard evening (and what sounds like a tough year!).

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Meguey said...

My heart goes out to you and to the mother of your paitent. Blessings, thanks and peace.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Contemplative Chaplain said...

Beautiful, haunting portrayal of chaplaincy. I resonate with your story, having served as an ED chaplain, and now as a Hospice chaplain. There are those moments when the story is so close to your own that there is little you can do to shake it off. Blessings to you, and to your daughter.

8:15 AM  
Blogger rbarenblat said...

I'm a new reader of your blog, but am looking forward to becoming a regular here. I did my first unit of clininal pastoral education last year and it moved me deeply -- the most amazing thing I have ever done, by far. I have unending admiration for what you do.

9:56 PM  
Blogger soupablog said...

great post.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

I agree with Hugh...

6:36 AM  
Blogger Jeanene said...

I've been a little pre-occupied lately... sorry to replies to comments. Thanks to each of you who have affirmed and wished us well. Also:

Rachel- loved getting to spend time with you in Austin.

Soup - Nice to have you drop in.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Jeanene said...

okay, add "not" after word 8... then drop "ies" on word 9 and substitute a "y".

9:26 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I was a cpe student with the bhs about a year ago at north east…I talked with you a couple of times on the phone but we never met in person. Cpe stretched me greatly because of such experiences, it greatly altered my life and theology and ministry. You always had helpful and thoughtful words for me during my cpe time, thanks for that. So, now I’m praying for you and can barely imagine such ministry emotions as what you have shared here. Godspeed to you and yours.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Scog Blog said...


What an amazing but terridying privilage to be there in the the muck of someones life. I'm glad you were there.

Please take time for you and him and the girls!

6:52 AM  
Blogger hughman said...

i blogged about you today on bibleversus. thanks doll!!

7:11 PM  
Blogger soupablog said...

starting in a week or two, you GOTTA start blogging again :)

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am 52 and have struggled with anxiety and depression...i was on paxil and went off...recently after another bad time last year...i am on effexor. i know what it is like to be there. i am doing good right now.

i will say a prayer for your daughter.

it is interesting at times as it dawns on me how much we are all in the same boat together. how we can relate with eachothers joys and burdens. we see others and do not always see in the everyday living how much we are the same.
it is good to read and hear such things to know that we are not so different or alone in our struggles. God is with you.

Huggs to you and your daughter.

i have one in college and one in 5th grade, daughters that is. i really miss the one in college. it sure went fast.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Jethro said...

that brought tears to my eyes

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


5:50 AM  
Blogger soupablog said...

on sunday it will be one year since you've blogged here!

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ 謝謝你的分享,祝你生活永遠多彩多姿!.........................

11:49 PM  
Blogger 討厭 said...

真正的愛心,是照顧好自己的這顆心。 ..................................................

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for you to make me learn more,thank you∩0∩

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