Summary: There is a "call waiting" for you at the depths of your being from God.
Thirty years ago this past summer, full-time ministry began for me as a hospital chaplain at Kenmore Mercy Hospital outside Buffalo, NY. One of the most striking memories of that summer was being called on a Code Red—cardiac arrest for a patient. I found myself being swept along the corridor as doctors and nurses converged, equipment noisily rolling along, everyone shouting at one another with the clamor from the TV program, ER. Very abruptly the family members of the patient were rushed out of the room, displaced by the hectic team that got to work with pounding his chest and injecting his veins, all amid the lead physician virtually screaming orders into the ears of the team. There I stood, quietly praying toward the back of the room, seeking to create a quiet space for prayer, confession and surrender to God—within me, at least, since it wasn’t offered right at the bedside of the patient.
The procedure turned out to be unsuccessful. More and more there were gaps in it, silence between the orders as the team began to realize that this man was not going to make it. There came a moment in the process when it was obvious to all present that the end had come for this man. Yet the procedure continued until the final order to stop was given. One of the nurse’s responsibilities had been pumping in an out with the “ambo bag”. This is a black inflatable rubber bag about half the size of a basketball that is inserted into the patient’s windpipe. Persistently and rhythmically she kept pressing in and out on the bag. As the procedure began to wind down, she kept on, waiting for the call from the lead physician to stop. But until the call came, she kept on pushing in and out, in and out, gradually losing attention at what she was about, doing it as though she was on automatic pilot, just doing her job. In the midst of the expanding silence in the room, she kept her hands on the bag, but her eyes turned to the nurse on her right as she began to speak: “Well, how was your weekend!" Somewhere in the core of me I was shocked and irritated at her. It’s as though the nurse was bored. Here we were—the ones blessed to have been called by the side of this wondrous mystery of human arrangement of clay and breath which is a human person. The silence of the group began to reveal, not the grief of the passing of a loved one, but a kind of professional disappointment that “this one” didn’t make it. We—and not the ones that loved this man in his life—were the ones with him for this man’s final minutes of life. The man’s family had been wrenched from his side about five earlier. I was like a Monday morning quarterback as I wished I taken charge at that point and called the group of doctors and nurses to a quiet, respectful pause for prayer before they simply walked out in disappointment. And who knows what the dying man was feeling, hearing and experiencing as he witnessed his life fading before his own very eyes, wishing his loved ones could be with him hearing their words of comfort and support and hope and his words to them, instead of someone beginning a banal conversation with: "Well, how was your weekend!”