It was a hot day in Wichita Falls in July of 1992. Late in the afternoon the police department called me to the emergency room at Wichita General Hospital. A young woman in her late 20’s rode in the back of the ambulance, as medics performed CPR on her husband.
When I arrived at the hospital, they had just called the code. He was deceased. I went with a nurse to the family conference room that was smaller than some walk-in closets to notify his wife. The image of that woman is still imprinted on my mind 27 years later. She was curled up in a fetal position in the chair. She was extremely distraught. And for some reason, I immediately noted that she had no shoes on… She boarded the ambulance moments earlier with a pair of socks on, but no shoes…
I was a 28-year-old law enforcement chaplain. At the time, I was a young father of a 3-year-old and a tiny infant. I asked her about family. There was no family… I then inquired about friends, church, neighbors and any other connections I could formulate in mind. She had none of the above. As I held her hand that afternoon, I looked her in the eye and said: “I am not going anywhere.” I waited with her until some distant relatives from Oklahoma finally arrived. At age 28, I didn’t know that there were people out there with no local support system.
Fast forward 27 years. It was a hot day in Granbury, Texas. I was on my way to the home improvement store to buy lumber and hardware. I had a full day planned. The nursing supervisor in the emergency room called and asked If I could come and serve a young woman whose husband had just died. I told her I was dressed for building fence, and not for making a pastoral call in the hospital. I was instructed to come on anyhow!
When I arrived, I found a young woman in her late 20’s in the examining room beside her deceased husband. She was extremely distraught… As I got acquainted with her, I asked about her family. She told me her mother was deceased. I asked about other family. There was really no other family to call. … I then inquired about friends, church, neighbors and any other connections I could formulate in mind. She had none of the above.
I waited with her until the funeral home arrived. I stayed while they did what they needed to do. Once the funeral home director left with her husband’s body I offered to drive her home, but she declined. I walked her to her car in the parking lot adjacent to the ER. We talked for a few moments in the parking lot. I gave her my business card. And before we departed, she hugged me like I was her own father.
As I drove to the home improvement store that morning, my mind was bouncing back and forth between an event in the summer of 1992 in an emergency room that has since been demolished and the call out I had just left. I realized I was no longer a naïve 28-year-old. The woman I had just served is the same age as my oldest son.
They say that “kid calls” are the hardest. I agree. I have been on a number of them over the years. As far as I am concerned, the morning I spent serving that young woman was a “kid call.” I am old enough to be her father, so my “dad heart” ached for her. I sat in the Lowe’s parking lot and tried to gain my composure, so I could go in and buy some lumber and hardware…. I was starkly reminded that there are a lot of people without a sufficient support system in this world. At age 57, I am no longer a naïve law enforcement chaplain. I am a seasoned chaplain with three grown sons. And my “dad heart” is more tender than it has ever been before. Kid calls are the hardest…