I believe that saying the right thing at the right time is priceless.
Through my years as a charge nurse in a busy, inner city Emergency Department, I have had many opportunities to be a part of many peoples’ lives during their most devastating moments. When a patient and a family, goes through a life-altering experience, such as a stroke, a car accident or a sudden death, the players and the script are forever embedded in the family of the injured. And that story will be re-told thousands of times over by those involved. Therefore, it is not only important, but imperative that one not “mess up” this opportunity to be a part of these families’ history.
I would not recommend that you attempt to be the “star” of the play (so to speak), but when a family is coping with the loss of a child, it would be better to say nothing at all than to say something wrong and trite. Saying something wrong can, and will, go down in THEIR history as insensitive and heartless, forever branding you and leaving your side of the story, defenseless.
When I had to tell a mother that her 15 year old son had been killed in the accident that her family was involved in, it was the worst moment of her life. She was, understandably, over-come with grief, but also anger: anger at the hospital staff that couldn’t bring him back to life…. anger at her husband who was driving the van… anger at God for taking her son in such a brutal way. How does a mother and/or a family go on when just moments ago, they were driving down the freeway on the way to Thanksgiving dinner?
Now their world is forever changed.
I was, at that time, part of their story, and the words I chose, and my actions would dictate who I was. Could I make their experience worse? Sure, had I been flippant, and uncaring I would still be part of their story, though not in the manner that dictates a Christian, servant’s heart.
To be there with that family, at that moment, was an extreme privilege. To guide them through the steps they had to take… just to make it through the next 30 minutes… then an hour, and so on. When the pain was too much to bear and they begged God to take them, too, I cried, I listened, and I mourned with them.
Six hours later, what had begun as such a somber encounter ended in an embrace and celebration of that child’s life…priceless.
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