Let me be the first to tell you that it's not easy taking death calls every day. Today was one of those days.
It normally starts out the same ... I hear that the person on the other end of the call has finally mustered up the courage to make the hardest call of their life. Calling a funeral home to lay a loved one to rest is no easy task.
I greet the caller and introduce myself. I hear a female voice on the other end express that she is need of our services. I assure her that I will be able to help her through this. She takes that deep breath and begins to explain that her son has died. I express my heart felt condolences and asked her if she was emotionally up to providing me with a little more information. She stated, "Yes, I think so ..."
I asked to standard questions required such his name, date of birth, and where he is currently. She remained grounded and strong. My personal thoughts were racing as I realized her son was only four year old. My heart was feeling as if it were going to burst at any second. My brain reminded me that I need to stay grounded so I can be the strength she will draw from as we get through the call.
I have all the vital statistic information and I am now leading her to schedule an appointment for her and her family to come in to meet with a Funeral Director. I expressed that I also needed to send her some information via email to allow her to prepare for the appointment and she provided me her email address. She shared with me that they have a ten year old daughter and she wasn't certain how to explain her little brother's death to her.
My Grief Recovery Specialist took over and I shared with her that she just needed to be honest and tell her that her brother died ... and just pause. Wait for the news to absorb and see if there were any further questions she may have for her. I explained that it makes it worse when we tell children that her brother is in Heaven or Eternal Sleep. Those are terms she does not have the ability to truly understand. We discussed if she should attend the funeral. I told her it would be the only opportunity she would have to say goodbye to him. I asked her to try to recall being a ten year old girl herself and if the roles were reversed, would she want that opportunity to say goodbye at ten years of age. She let out a sigh of relief and said, "Ahhh ... I see what you're saying. Thank you for helping me see ahead."
I assured her that as soon as the hospital called to release her precious on into our care that we would dispatch our care center and her son would be in our care within the hour of that call. She let out another sigh. I asked her if she had any further questions or is there anything that I may be of service to her prior to the appointment in the morning. She told me there wasn't and I again felt led to assure her that we would carry her through this difficult time of loss. She thanked me again and we ended the call.
Within thirty minutes, the charge nurse called from Children Hospital and expressed the he was ready to be taken into our care. I gathered some medical information from her and thanked the nurse for all the love and care that she and all nurses provide sacrificially to families everyday. I expressed my heart felt condolences once again for the loss of her young patient. She thanked me as her voice cracked and she said, "You know, we never hear that much. It is so hard when a child dies, you know?" I said, "Yes, it is. Let me make you this promise that as you pass that baton of care onto me, I promise we will take great care of him for you now. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you again for all the love you share with so many."
We ended the call and I contacted our care center to report that we needed to head out to receive this boy into our care. I sat there and recalled all of my daughters and each grandchild being four years old. My heart sank. I regained my mind and felt led to call his mother to let her know that the nurse had just called and we were on the way to receive him.
When she answered the phone, I shared with her the news and that he would be in our care as promised within the hour. That once grounded voice shattered and she screamed out in that agonizing voice and said, "Please ... Be gentle with him. Be so very gentle with him."
I fought back my own tears (well ... I tried to) and with tears streaming down my face I promise her we would and that he will be in the best of care. She asked with a shaken and trembling voice, "When the time comes to dress him, may I come and do that?" I told her that she most certainly could. She wept ... I sat quietly weeping on the other end of the call with her.
She got composed after a few moments and shared that he was a heart patient. She told me how brave he has been throughout his life and how precious he is to her. She shared that her grandmother had also had heart failure and that she was going to lay him to rest right beside her. She said, "You know, it's like we will have all our broken hearts in one place that way."
At this point I am about to explode with the bottled emotions I am trying my best to retain. I told her I would be praying for her and her family and we would see them in the morning. I reminded her take do her best to take care of herself and allow the love of those who love and care for her to carry her until she was ready to stand on her own.
We ended the call. I had to make myself unavailable for about ten minutes and went to the restroom to briefly recompose myself. I returned to my desk and prepared myself for the next caller.
I drove home from work and I prayed ... no ... it was more like I cried out to God and said, "Don't you understand??? It's people like her that need the services I am trying to provide. Please God, take care of her heart as it tries to heal and her family. He has a ten year old sister too." Tears still flowing throughout the entire prayer.
It is so hard sometimes ... I most likely will never know years from now how this family is doing. Did this tear their marriage apart or did it bring them together? Were they able to say goodbye to their pain? Did they have those regrets? Will they try to replace the loss or turn to substances to try to numb the pain they will carry?
I know I can't save them all ... but my heart would like to.
If you are still reading this, Please ... Be Gentle. Be gentle with your heart. It's breaking. Your heart will need to be tended to. Grief is the ultimate expression of love that now has nowhere to go. Seek help if you need it. Know that here are people like me, who are well trained and able to help you through all those raw emotions and educate you about your grief journey.
So please ... be gentle with your heart.
From my heart to yours,