Wednesday, April 08, 2015

chaplaincy series: death midwife

I attended your death as a midwife. Along with a nurse and a social worker as your birth attendants. I attend death like a midwife attends birth.  I cannot do it for you.  I can only be with you as you do the hard work.

I hold your hand, swollen with the IV fluids of failed resuscitation attempts. Edema from the kidney failure that the bedside dialysis failed to reverse. My fingers leave indentations on your skin. Your nurse wipes your forehead with a cool cloth, with the tenderness of a mother and her child.  Your social worker draws the curtain to your room, to give you some privacy as you do the vulnerable and animalistic work of dying.

Your dad had to go back to his home. He sat vigil at your bedside for two weeks. But he couldn't be there any longer.  But today, your death day, he calls and we put the phone beside your ear. We repeat over and over again the messages of encouragement from your father.  "You are loved."  "Your dad loves you."  "Your aunt loves you."  "Your mom is waiting for you."  Because your mom died when you were a child.

We sometimes turn on the music channels on your television. But the muzak doesn't seem to fit you.  I turn on the music in my own phone.  It somehow seems like you would want to hear Mumford and Sons and Avett Brothers.  Because you are, after all, my age. You have tattoos. You have a gauge piercing in your ear.

We are helping you to birth your own death. Your breaths are further and further apart. Your heart slows and stops.  Your nurse places her stethoscope on your chest.  She looks at you and looks at us and her tears fall upon your face. My tears fall upon the floor like rain.

Only at the end of this birth-death, there is only absence, not presence.

I am a chaplain…I am a death midwife.

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