I work part time as an RN in a small town Emergency Room. I’m not there often, just a couple times a month. It’s where I can jump into a different box, work a different part of my brain and be reminded of the uniqueness of my family and our blessed life. This last weekend I spent a day there, and I’m still trying to absorb it. It was a really busy shift, and had all the elements of a typical ER day- lots of drama, life, death, busyness and sacred moments.
It’s hard sometimes to see the sacred moments amid the chaos of the work. But, I was so struck by the honor I had to be present in several people’s worst moments this weekend. I was present when few were, when they refused family (or, for their benefit we had to), when they needed to process alone, when phones weren’t there, when silence was the only right thing.
In one shift I held the hands of a young wife whose husband had just commited suicide, a woman who was lost in her mind, a mother whose child passed away, a man who got the news he was full of cancer and his family who had to process their new reality.
In each of these cases, there was a sense of sacredness. Not everyone felt it. But, as I sat with a once sophisticated woman who was screaming and thrashing, lost in her mind in some very dark place she had never been before, I saw a cathedral. I felt a holiness. As I sat with that mother who wept over the body of her son, I saw a sacred space that will be marked in her memory forever- where pain is so great, and it’s impression will never leave. It was sacred. As I walked beside a doctor who I knew was about to deliver heart-wrenching news to a loving family, I was so aware that I was entering a holy place.
These moments were holy because they were set apart, at least for these people- the loss they felt as they suffered, it created a cavern of need and a newly formed canyon of pain they had not had just a few hours before. And I was present for it.
These experiences made me ponder deeply how we respond to people when they are in those places. Do we recognize when others are experiencing their own sacred moments, when they are so raw and exposed that God draws near and their moment is forever touched? Do we recognize the sacredness amid the busyness, so that we draw along side them and sit in silence for those moments so they aren’t alone there?
It is easier to be present for people in the ER, these that I don’t know or those whose pain I will not follow or likely ever experience with them again. It is harder to seek out those sacred moments in those I love, in those I live my life with. It is much more draining to be silent when I share the reasons for pain, or when I have seen the full expanse of their canyons, and it’s too much.
But, I am determined this day to look for sacred moments being experienced around me. To draw along side those whose moments are being marked by pain, and their suffering is creating a catherdral of need. Oh, that my eyes can see them. That I can worship alongside them, or for them because they can’t. That I can be present, so they aren’t there alone.
Have you experienced a sacred moment like these? Did you feel so alone? Did you feel that no one could possibly understand or that you were in a vacuum – the moment before everyone else knew, before the calls started or the plans were made. Did you feel driven to protect that space?
I know I did.
When I got the call about my brother being killed in Iraq, I felt like I was alone in a massive space.. a vacuum of loss and pain. I wanted to protect it- to block out all the people who were learning about it, who wanted to console and grieve themselves. No one could understand my pain in that moment, only God could comprehend it.
It was a sacred place because for a little bit it was just me and God.
Just me and my loss.
No other factors had worked in yet. No details, no funeral arrangements. No chosing of caskets was necessary yet, or taxes needing filed for the deceased. There was just loss. Pain. Grief. And, God.
Some people don’t have that. They don’t feel God there. In their pain is only suffering. They may not see the cathedral. But we do.
May we each draw near to those people who need us to help them see, to experience the awe for them. To be present with them, to worship on their behalf and to comfort them in their sacred spaces. May we always appreciate the honor we have in being there when we get caught up in others’ sacred place, so we do not defile it in any way.
Have you shared a sacred space with someone? Did it change you ? Or them?