Requiem Aeternam

Today, I cry all the tears that I normally can’t. The night of All Souls is a night when my professional life and my spiritual being are thrown into the starkest possible relief. It’s a time and a space to think about all the people whose lives I was involved in and whose deaths I became part of.

I remember the first person I tried to bring back to life. I remember needing to hold on to the arrest trolley when my consultant called time of death.

I remember the people who have died peacefully and surrounded by their families.

I remember the people who have died suddenly, unexpectedly.

I remember that it’s always unexpected.

I remember a brave woman with a wonderful smile, who always knew my name and always asked if I had a home to go to and never stopped smiling.

I remember people who have died far far far too young, because cancer is shit.

I remember the first time I had to take someone into a room and say that if they wanted to call the rest of their family, it needed to be right now. I will never ever forget her name or the look on her face when I said that.

I remember a conversation I had on Christmas Day last year.

I remember people who went home, and that they knew and I knew that they were going home to die.

I remember someone who sent all his family away, just for a minute, and told me, very quietly, that he wanted to stop fighting.

I remember people who I met at a time when they had already stopped being alive, when it was just the two of us in a room alone in the middle of the night and I had come to perform this one final act of service. I remember that I didn’t realise the enormity of that act until the first time I had to do it, the first time I had to try to wake someone up, knowing but not yet accepting that I wouldn’t be able to. The veil between heaven and earth, I said once, has never been so thin.

No response to voice.
No response to physical stimulus.
No carotid pulse.
No heart sounds.
No breath sounds.
Pupils fixed and unresponsive to light.
I confirm the death of…

Then, I go back to work.

But you never forget.

And this is a night when I sit with all of that not forgetting and I take time to cry the tears that I couldn’t, to lay it all to rest, and to surrender those memories and those people to no more pain, no more sadness, no more death, and to a place where all is well, where all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord,
and may light perpetual shine upon them.
May they, and all the souls of all the departed,
rest in peace.

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7 comments

  1. Pingback: Beth tells All Souls like it is

  2. Good stuff. Today in our Church (Coromandel Valley and Blackwood South Australia) we conflated All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. I invited people to list those whose names we could read out on a roll of the dead. We placed that roll on the corporal with the precious Body and Blood of our Lord. It was lovely to read the list in a reflective way.
    We normally have Communion in the round and there is often a very great sense of Real Presence as we administer Communion to each other. Towards the end of the Communion the presence of my mother and father was very close and I began to ‘tear up’ so I was moved in the quiet after we had all received to remind people to tread carefully with their own grief and that of others.
    After the service numbers of people commented on how important that had been for them.
    One man who was a visitor from overseas told me about how important it had been for him in order to help with grief for two friends who had died while they had been away. And I am reminded (for the millionth time in my priestly ministry) that for all the cleverness and inventiveness I think I bring to caring for the bereaved….God got there before me.

    In addition to this a faithful priest parishioner died on All Soul’s Day, and his sons who have distanced themselves from the faith in which they were nurtured are perhaps a little closer because of the Last Rites (one of them even Googled what it was all about because he didn’t know).
    For the fact that God is gracious, and for the privilege of ministering to the dying. Thanks be to God!

  3. Thank you for this.As a nurse I have been in many similar places and feel something for those people but a year ago today a precious baby died and now reading your blog it all becomes so much more poignant. I can never go back and give all my dying patients and their families that extra that could have made the difference, but I pray that I will be able to in future. Bless you Beth

  4. Pingback: Mozart- Requiem in D minor: Requiem Aeternam | Les Chroniques d'une Exilée


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