Beyond emotion

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since I last posted about my retreat in early December.

I have visited patients, cared for family members of the deceased, preached, deaconed, Christmas shopped, Christmas celebrated, observed a birthday in a blizzard (not the first time!), spent lots of time with family and some with friends, and come close to the end of my second CPE unit. 

I was on call over New Year’s weekend and had scarcely breathed a sign of relief that there were no disasters here in the City at the Center of the Universe when I was paged in the frozen early morning, not even a few days into 2010.

A young child had been murdered. The family needed care. Would I come? 

My hands have never found collar studs so hard to fasten, and purse and keys so hard to locate.

I have never prayed so hard during a taxi ride. Nor have I noticed so many churches as I did on that frigid morning, making the way across the city. My city. Everywhere a church, a cross, arched doorways. God, please, please, please help me… I have no idea what I’m going to do. 

Everyone knew why I was there… “right this way chaplain.” ‘We’re so glad to see you.”

Grim looking staff trying to seem tough, and police guarding the door of a room where a small body lay motionless, and family members… lots of family members, friends.

I prayed, a desperate, raw prayer, and they sobbed. 

We sat. Silence, quiet sobbing. I moved among them, a hand on a shoulder here, a tissue handed out there. An aunt showed me a video of the victim taken with her iPhone, a happy child dancing. 

A clergy member from their denomination finally came, prayed, took off with barely a word to the family.

Finally, time to go. I was walking a thin line between a grieving family and a nervous ER staff, a city medical examiner on the way.

Prayers and goodbyes and wailing over that little body, that young face. A sheet pulled back into place.

And they left. And I left.

And now, in the following days, I’ve learned what it means to be

beyond emotion. 

I know what it means to be grazed, scratched, clawed at, by evil. To not know if you’re angry or sad or what because emotion seems so, so cerebral, and this feeling is physical. Bodily. Fight or flight, shaking, anxiety… my supervisor named it  – trauma. 

It can’t be talked out, willed away, forgotten… it just has to be walked through, accepted, waited out. 

I know the drill – act fast or it stays too long, interferes. So I called in the posse. Husband, priest, supervisor, friends, therapist. At some point I will no longer be beyond emotion, and at some point it will fade. For me at least.

Never, for that poor family. Oh lord have mercy on us, your broken and suffering people.


~ by Sophia on January 7, 2010.

3 Responses to “Beyond emotion”

  1. No words, but praying for them, and for you.

  2. It never ceases to amaze me how often clergy from the family’s/person’s own denomination act like hospital visits are so much of an annoyance.

    Blessings as you work through this.

  3. How awful! And how wonderful that you were there for that family. Take care, dear friend.

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