“This isn’t how it was supposed to happen!”
It was an ordinary day. They spent time with family and friends. They had lunch together. They took a trip to the store. Everything was as it should be. It was as it had always been, until suddenly, it wasn’t. Her heart stopped suddenly. Forty-five minutes later, she was gone. First, there was a frantic ride to the hospital in the back of an ambulance and several rounds of CPR, but they called her time of death shortly after she arrived.
“This isn’t how it was supposed to happen,” she cried as I broke the news.
She knew it was true but wasn’t ready to believe it. There was no long goodbye or peaceful sendoff. A stranger told her the worst news in a dimly lit, 10x10 room with no windows in an emergency room hallway. She was right. This isn’t how it was supposed to happen.
Her family finally arrived, and they wept together. They held one another close. I got them water, then stepped away to give them space. Anything I needed to talk with them about could wait. I stayed close by, leaving them to care for one another. Weeping in the arms of her family didn’t make it better, but it did help her start the journey of healing. Even in those early moments of grief, as she oscillated between denial and acceptance, the steady presence of her family and friends gave her the courage to walk down the hall to say goodbye. It’s amazing how people find the strength to navigate hardship, challenge, and grief when they know they aren’t alone.
“I don’t know how to do this without her,” she cried as she inched closer to her mother’s room. Her friend said quietly, “None of us do, but we’ll figure it out together.” And they walked through the door arm in arm.
It’s a strange thing I do for a living, this chaplaincy thing. I see lots of things happen in ways they aren’t supposed to. This world is broken and hurting; I sometimes see it at its worst. But just as often, I catch sight of beauty amid the broken. I see and sense the presence of God in unexpected places. It’s beautiful to see the people of God, made in the image of God, bearing God’s likeness as they care for one another.
They stepped through the door of her room together. They wept and said goodbye together. They talked through what came next together. They walked out of the hospital together.
Maybe this isn’t how it was supposed to happen, but as I watched, I thought, “This IS how it is supposed to be.”