While in the studium (seminary) I served as a chaplain to the E.R./Trauma Unit at St Louis University Hospital during the summer of 2002.
One afternoon I was called to the E.R. to minister to a family who's 52 y.o. mother had been brought into the hospital for heat stroke and a possible heart attack.
When I got the E.R. but before I saw the family in the waiting room, the charge nurse told me that the woman was D.O.A.
I went out to the family. . .introduced myself. . .and sat down with them to wait. More family members arrived while we waited.
After about a 20 mins the E.R. doc came into the waiting room and told the family that their mother had died of a massive heart attack.
They erupted in grief. I just sat there.
When the worst of the grieving had ebbed a bit, I said, "Would you like to see her?" They said, "Yes."
I went to arrange a visit for the family. When we entered the room, the family started crying again. I just stood there. One of the older members of the family said, "Let's pray." We all held hands and the man prayed.
I walked them back out to the E.R. waiting room and spoke briefly with the oldest daughter about how to arrange for her mother's body to be transported to the funeral home.
The next day the director of pastoral care called me into her office and told me that a couple of the family members had called her about my service to the family. She told me that they raved about my ministry to them and wanted to invite me to the funeral. She congratulated me on a job well done.
I was stunned, frankly. In all, I'd spoken maybe 30 words the whole afternoon. And nothing I said was in any way "pastoral" or "spiritual." I didn't even initiate or lead the prayer! My silence wasn't a stroke of wisdom or even a plan. I didn't know what to say. . .I had nothing to say.
Lesson: when ministering to folks who've been traumatized by the death of a loved one, keep your mouth shut. Just be there with them._____________
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