Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!



Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.
--p. 124, Book of Common Prayer

The prayer above is one of my favorite prayers from Evening Prayer and Compline. It makes a nice combination with the Taizé chant I embedded.

As a person who works in the health care world, I am very attuned to those "working, watching, or weeping" at night. In my prayer imagination, I often see the night shifts at hospitals--floor nurses, ER staffs, young medical residents and clinical medical students, the lone medical technologist in the laboratory, the night hospital security people and custodial staff.

They are also among the watchers--along with the family members who are waiting for the continuum of life--loved ones dying, women in labor waiting for the new baby, people in the ICU where people are not only watching them personally, but watching the beeping, tracing, tracking instrumentation attached to them. Some of the watching is to see "which way the wind will blow"--whether antibiotics start to reverse the fever of septic patients, whether post-operative bleeding will abate, whether drains in chest tubes still drip reddish fluid or whether it is starting to be clear.

Then, of course, there is the weeping. Not just the weeping that follows death, but weeping for joy, weeping from loneliness, weeping from gratitude. The weeping isn't only among the patients and families, either. I have seen an entire health care team break down in a sea of tears over their inability to save a favorite patient. Medical students hide in the corners and weep over the "first loss" of a patient. Many a health care worker has wept because they were at work and someone at home reports the baby just walked for the first time, someone has lost a first tooth, or a small child at home missed Mama or Daddy, who was "working at the hospital again."

Even in my unchurched years, the hospital at night seemed a holy place--as holy as the sanctuary of a cathedral. I can remember lying in the call room at night hearing the heavy silence, punctuated by an occasional cart or gurney rolling down the hall, or the ominous "wuff wuff wuff" of the helicopter. It seemed the sound of the helicopter almost in and of itself triggered prayer. In the large medical center, it meant "incoming trauma" or "preemie." In the smaller hospital, it meant someone had taken a turn for the worse and had been "shipped out," or the ER had a case "too hot to handle."

I could see why "Hôtel Dieu" was a popular name for hospitals in French-speaking countries--God's hotel, tended by the priests and deacons of medicine and nursing, at the altar of the bedside. Crucifixion and resurrection in OR's, ER's, ICU's and Labor & Delivery suites. The Holy Trinity of doctor, nurse, and patient.

So the next time you pray this prayer, take a moment to remember the folks who spend their night in hospitals, soothing the weary, tending the sick, waiting along with mothers in labor, and feeling the relief of a rallying patient. Some of the angels charged with guarding those asleep in the Hotel of God are not cherubim or seraphim, but are very, very mortal.

6 comments:

Whenever I pray either of those offices I mostly think of health care and public safety settings. I think it has something to do with my own experience in a SNF, but also because the two Episcopalians who got me in to the tradition are nurses or learning to be a nurse and I hear their stories of the night shift.

[Small, freaky world tidbit: both are former Trinity K-ville people.]

Well...a recent grad I know from Truman is just finishing up nursing school so I am wondering if we know at least one of the same people!

The nurse I'm thinking of just passed his boards a month or so ago. We had many spirits that weekend with the nurse-in-training!

Yep; I am pretty sure we are talking about the same person!

Small, scary world. He keeps telling me we need to visit Trinity K-ville sometime, especially if Mass of Creation is in use, but our schedules have not cooperated in that manner yet.

In a few weeks we will be doing Mass of Creation! We need to YouTube it. It would seriously be the best one on the Internet.

Right now we are going the Deutche Mass Gloria. Good for the choir--not so good for us mere mortals!

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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