Monday, September 6, 2010

Rumors and Laboring

Got a phone call today from a member.  Apparently, someone actually believed I was resigning because of what I said in my sermon. 


Luckily, the fire was easily put out, but I swear that sometimes between my mouth and someone's ears something gets lost.

And that was the lighter stuff for today.

Today is Labor Day.  The day that (some) folks get to take off from their labors and rest.  Generally, the church closes its office for the day too.  However, because of my profession, just because the office is closed doesn't mean I will get the full day off.

Yesterday, I had to do  nursing home services at a local rest home.  When I arrived, one of the staff informed me that the only member I have in this facility was not doing well at all.  Just that morning, she had taken a major turn southward.  I told her that I would be sure and visit her after I finished leading worship.

After worship was done, I went to visit Ellie Mae.  Her daughter Ellen was in the room with her, and things were not well.  Ellie Mae's breathing was very reminicent of the "death rattle" that I have seen with numerous folks who are dying.  Yet, she was awake and alert.  She asked me how my kids were doing and how I was.  As I was standing by her bed, she snipped, "Ever heard of a chair?"

That was Ellie Mae.  I stayed for quite some time just visiting with Ellen and Ellie Mae.  We coaxed Ellie Mae into taking a nap, and I said my goodbyes.  Unfortunately, it would be the last time that Ellie Mae would be responsive.

Later in the afternoon, I received a call from the hospital telling me that Ellie Mae had been admitted.  Her condition had deteriorrated even further.  I was right in the middle of fixing dinner for the wife and kids (yes, I am the chief cook of the house), so I finished up what I was doing, ate with them, and then headed back to the hospital.

I arrived in the room, and it was obvious that Ellie Mae was not long for this world.  I'd seen this too many times.  The nurse reported that her EKG showed a possible heart attack.  The pericardium was filling up with fluid.  They gave her Lasix to help remove the fluid, but there wasn't the output that should have been there.

"Kidneys shutting down," I thought to myself.

I said a prayer and stayed with the family for a while before heading home to help tuck the kids in bed.

Labor Day morning.  A day when many think about scrounging up something to do.  But my thoughts weren't on what I would perhaps grill later in the day or how we would spend a day to ourselves as a family.  My thoughts were on Ellie Mae and her kids. 

As a pastor, you are never fully off.  You don't get the option of a button that says "Pastor On/Pastor Off".  Plus with cell phones and email and all that other electronic crap that keeps us "connected" you can't get away from anything.  While the day on the calendar says "Day Off, Office Closed, Pastor's Vacation" if someone has an emergency, real or imagined, they know your number.  It comes with the territory, and while there are days I would like to complain, I accept this as the way it is and will be.

I knew it was my responsibility to make sure I checked in with Ellie Mae and her family today.  So, I made it a part of a family outing.  My wife dropped me off at the hospital to visit while she took the kids to the park about a half a mile away.  I would walk to the park and join them later.

It was a good visit.  It was needed.  Ellie Mae's daughter finally told me to go and spend some time with my wife and kids, and I did.  Ellie Mae died an hour and a half after I walked out the door.  More thoughts on that later.   

It didn't end up being a complete day off, but end of life moments have a holiness all of their own.  Sometimes you've just got to ignore the calendar and go to work.  God bless all who labor and those who don't on this day. 

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