IF I ever think of anyone’s passing as “just another death” then it will be time to leave my job.
Last weekend I was called into hospital to pray for a woman who had died.
She had been well until a few days ago so her death was a shock for all her children. But an even bigger shocker was that her husband was an inpatient on another ward.
I was still there when the husband was brought across to see his recently departed wife. He asked if I was the Padre and we went together behind the drawn curtains of the bed area, where he wept and spoke to his loved one.
And the words he spoke brought a stinging to my eyes: “Thank you so much” he said “for giving me a wonderful life. You’ve been so brave and so loving and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Needless to say I was very moved. This death, like all deaths, was unique. Touching a unique number of individuals in a unique way. And the words of this man were spot on. Not just another death in a hospital.
But the death of a woman who had changed some people’s lives. So with sadness in my heart, and after time spent with the family and (at their request) praying for them all, I left the ward – stopping to say goodbye to a staff member. I could see from her eyes that she had been crying, so I hugged her and we understood the sacrifice and privilege of working in hospital.
She, too, had been moved by this death – even though she had seen many deaths in her time in the NHS. Thank God that she and I were not hardened to this sadness.
So if you see me treat any person’s death as “just another death” then tell me to get out of Chaplaincy. And if you – nurse, midwife, medic, administrator, healthcare assistant – view any patient’s passing as “just another…” then well… you can fill in the blanks for yourself.
You can read my column every Monday in Worcester News or visit the website for the article here: http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/13878984.David_Southall_health_column__It_s_not_just__another_death_in_hospital_/