Day 151: Reverend Fred

4 Sep

Seventeen years ago today I was with my sister Nancy in the intensive care unit at St. Vincent’s hospital in Manhattan. The previous day she had had a blood transfusion and it had proved to be too much for her poor body to handle and she suffered a heart attack. I was spending the summer in Montana and when I got the call I knew that I had to be there with her. It took hours to book a flight for the next morning. And as I drove to the airport with my year old son, I was crying so much that I missed my turn. That proved to be disastrous.

When I did arrive at the airport my plane was taking off. Through tears I tried to explain to the agent that I needed to get on the next plane. She calmly told me that I should come back the next day (did I say it was a very small airport?) When I told her that tomorrow might be too late, she was not moved. Not knowing what else to do, I retreated to a corner of the airport and sobbed.

The airport manager came to me and asked what was wrong and somehow I managed to explain what had happened. She then went over to the same agent and spoke to her, after which she told me that the agent would help me. I had my doubts, but went over to find the agent busily trying to figure out a way for me to get to NY that evening. She was speaking to someone on the phone when she asked me “And what is the name of the funeral home that you will you use?” Shocked I said, “But I am hoping that she won’t die!” She calmly nodded and explained that this was the ruse they were using to get my flight changed. I mentioned the name of the funeral home we had used for my Mother and she told that to the person on the other end of the phone. “What is their phone number?” she asked. I said, “I have no idea – but the area code is 718.” And then that agent who had been so unwilling to help me earlier, made up a phone number and told it to the agent on the phone. My flight would not get to NY until late that evening, but I would soon be on my way.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the day but I do recall that it was my Uncle Bill (Booey) that picked me up at the airport. We arrived at the hospital at about midnight and I was taken to the room where my sister was. She was in a coma and was hooked up to a respirator – but she was still with us.

The staff let me stay in the room seated next to Nancy. I was able to hold her hand and talk to her for a little while. It was only a few short hours later, around 3AM, when I awoke to the sound of alarms. I’d fallen asleep and did not know what had taken place. The nurse on duty came in and told me that she was going to turn off the alarms. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the alarms had sounded because my sister had died.

A short time later, the hospital chaplain came to the room and asked if we wanted him to pray with us. I did not know that there were people who did what he did. It was exactly what we needed at that time – someone to be with us as we let Nancy go. I was so grateful that, even without knowing us, the chaplain was able to give us comfort.

This morning I knew that I wanted to bring a pie to our own hospital chaplain in my sister’s honor but I was not sure how I would be able to find him. And then I remembered that our pastor knew him well and I could ask her for his contact information. When I arrived at church this morning to help an older parishioner with coffee hour I was surprised by an offer of help from someone in the parking lot. Imagine my surprise when Fred, our hospital chaplain, stepped out to help. When I asked him what he was doing there, he told me that he was filling in for our pastor this week.

As you may have guessed, it was pretty easy to figure out how to deliver a pie to Fred. I hope that he knows that the work that he does is incredibly important – and the people that he serves are grateful – even if they are not able to express their thanks at the time. As for me, it is days like this that make me think that this pie project has a life of its’ own and that I am so very lucky to be a part of it all.

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7 Responses to “Day 151: Reverend Fred”

  1. limberjack September 5, 2011 at 7:46 AM #

    What a story! Used up ALL my kleenex! Thank you for sharing that.

    • pieadaygiveaway September 5, 2011 at 8:19 AM #

      Is that you Patty? Or is this from Jack? Thanks for your comment…. and sorry about the kleenex. As you can imagine, this was one of the hardest days for me. And I felt last night as I went to bed that perhaps I had told too much. Thanks for saying that wasn’t the case.

      • limberjack September 5, 2011 at 8:39 AM #

        Patty is on another of her trips. You have a gift for baking AND for writing.

  2. Mari September 5, 2011 at 8:57 AM #

    The loss of a loved one may become easier to bear over time but never goes away. Since I was in ICU for over three months your story resonated within me. It reminds me to truly appreciate my continuing recovery and not be so hard on myself. Thank you Karen for sharing your story.

  3. Kathy September 5, 2011 at 10:33 AM #

    Oh, Karen, a sad, but wonderful story in the end!

  4. Janet Larmore (and Tom Strong) September 5, 2011 at 10:58 AM #

    Oh my goodness, Karen. What a terrible loss for you. I’m so very sorry. I’m glad you were able to get some comfort from the chaplain and to be with your sister for those few precious hours. Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

  5. donna September 12, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

    How well I remember Nancys bravery….such good memories of all of you shared on Wandel Ave….Made me cry Karen….

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