The Value of a Chaplain

Mr. H, a 91-year-old gentleman, came to Surrey last week for short-term rehab. We had a wonderful conversation as I completed his Spiritual Assessment.

His sons were present, and we did a lot of reminiscing once we discovered that we were both from New York, loved ‘Yankee’ foods (Sabrette hot dogs, New York pizza and potato knishes), and that my grandmother worked at a restaurant in Queens called Bickfords, which he often frequented.

I also learned that he was a practicing Catholic and would welcome a visit from Father Andy. Conveniently, our Catholic Church is next door to Surrey.

This morning, Mr. H suddenly stopped breathing, and the Emergency Rescue arrived and subsequently took him to our local hospital. The sons were in shock and upset, as would be expected. I called the parish next door and they told me that Father Andy would head to the hospital.

When I got to the hospital, I met Father Andy in the parking lot and we went in together. At first they wouldn’t let us go back, because the room was full of ER staff and Rescue as they continued to work to keep Mr. H alive, but as quickly as we were told to wait in the waiting room, a nurse overruled that decision and told us that it was okay for us to go back.

Father Andy was able to administer Last Rites to Mr. H. before he passed and he was able to minister to the sons. Shortly after, one of the sons thanked me for contacting the priest, saying that receiving the Last Rites was very important to his dad.

He also told me that Father Andy told them that in the many years he had served in this parish, he only had two occasions to administer this sacrament, and this was one of the them. The ER tech confirmed that they rarely had the priest come, because they never thought to contact him.

As a new chaplain, I learned many valuable lessons today, but it became very clear to me that knowing the elders spiritual needs and their desires at end of life is so very important. It made all the difference for this family.