He is unresponsive. Imminently dying, they say. He has already been visited by other chaplains over the course of his stay, the priest has been called for Anointing of the Sick. His grown children gather around his bed and we hold hands… I lead a prayer for peaceful transitions, for healing, for comfort. The family weeps openly. I offer to sing Amazing Grace, they nod their heads, blow their noses. I sing. Dad opens his eyes and locks his gaze with mine. When I finish singing a second verse, he smiles. “That was nice! Thank you!” He exclaims. His family is surprised. He hasn’t been speaking for a while now. I pull out a Jesus card, cut it, fold it. I hand it to Dad, who smiles broadly and exclaims “Beautiful!” It is art. It is music. It is presence. It is prayer. It is a (last) moment this family will treasure forever.
Cards in Action: With one foot in our world and one foot in the next, she lay in bed, weeping and crying out for her mama. She no longer recognized her husband of 50 years, and had ceased speaking. Her eyes tracked movement in the upper corners of the hospital room. I provided anointing at her husband’s request, and folded a Virgen de Guadalupe prayer card. Handing it to her, I said “para fuerza y animo”. For strength and courage. She wept more as she kissed the card and drew it to her chest. I knelt by her bed, took her hand and sang Ave Maria, as her husband sobbed.
A few more words, a quiet exit…. Two days later a staff chaplain relays their request that I return: “We don’t know if you can find her, she might be an angel… but please send her, if you see her!” They had said. I return to a smiling woman, sitting in a chair, who recognizes me, greets me. Her husband is there, telling me how she began speaking after I left- telling him God had given her a second chance. For now, she has returned consciousness to the Earthly plane- for a little while longer.