I am sitting here on a lazy Saturday. And I'm enjoying it. I'm trying to get all of my laziness in before we embark on this next week which includes: city party (tonight), children's Christmas program, Sarah's dance class party, cantata practice, church Christmas party, Sarah's Christmas recital, cantata dress rehearsal, and then finally the big cantata Saturday. Josh's mom and grandma are also coming in next weekend and I'm hoping I will still be coherent enough to play hostess. Can't wait to see them!
The children's Christmas party at church always brings to mind the very first Christmas party here at Montrose Baptist Church. Josh had just accepted the call to be the pastor here the week before the scheduled party and I was so excited about my first activity as an official preacher's wife. I was going to make a birthday cake for Jesus and read "What God Wants for Christmas" to the kids. I was so excited. As you can probably guess, things did not go as smoothly as I had planned.
At that point I was still working full-time, a job that had me driving halfway around the free world. We had not yet moved into the "church manse" so we were also driving 45 minutes to and from church twice on Sundays. I'm not going to lie, it was a little exhausting. So, that particular Sunday after church I baked the cake for Jesus and then informed Sarah that we would all take a nap and let the cake cool while we slept. Well, apparently Sarah was not okay with that plan because while I slept, she decided she would frost the cake. The too hot cake that crumbled into a million pieces as she frosted it. :) This was also during the time that our Christmas tree kept falling over so by the time we put the Christmas tree back up and salvaged the cake, we were running a little late. Josh had a "shortcut" through the woods and that day it felt like a roller coaster ride as we twisted and turned and shot up in the air on those back country roads doing about 90.
We finally made it to the church and the second I stepped out of the jeep the Nutty Nurse (she is one of our church members who just happened to also work at hospice with me) came over and asked if I had gotten her page. I hadn't. We obviously had not had signal during our roller coaster ride through the woods. She informed that a patient had just died and we were the nurse and social worker on call. Two things crossed my mind. First, I was so upset that I would have to leave the birthday party for Jesus. Second, I was a little freaked out because the Nutty Nurse and I had both started our jobs about the same time and this was the first time either of us had been called out for a death visit. To top it off, neither of us had met the patient or the family.
I handed my children, the book and the crumb cake over to one of the church ladies and loaded up in the Nutty Nurse's SUV. We took off and immediately started discussing what we were supposed to do. She handed me the protocol book and I started reading the information. I couldn't help but comment that we really needed a "Death for Dummies" book. During the 45 minute drive to Meridian we went over the patient's information and I noted that Enterprise was the funeral home the patient had chosen. The NN decided we should wait until we spoke with the family to call the funeral home. We drove around lost for a little bit and then we finally figured out the directions. I don't know how to explain where we ended up without it sounding judgmental or negative. Let's just say, it was an apartment complex you would not want to go to by yourself at night. And yet, there we were...
We stuck out like sore thumbs and so people were quick to figure out who we were and point us in the direction of the right apartment. We walked in and there were several people gathered in the tiny space. The bed was stripped. No patient. No sheets. I assumed the family must have already called the funeral home. What a relief....we would just provide support to the family and help them with arrangements. As I was feeling relieved I noticed that everyone's attention was drawn to a pile of white sheets in the middle of the floor. Could it be? No, it couldn't. A person couldn't fit under those sheets......OH.MY.GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The patient was on the floor under a pile of sheets!!!!!!!!!!!!! The NN pulled back the sheet to check her and they hadn't even closed her eyes! Do you remember the post where I talked about the things that school cannot prepare you for? Yes, this would count as one of those times.
In that moment I did what any good preacher's wife would do. I said, "Let's pray." As I was leading this group of people I had never met in my life in prayer, literally over a dead body, someone started trying to open the door behind me. More relief. I just knew it had to be our chaplain and he would know how to handle all of this. No. It was just some drunk guy who had stumbled on the wrong apartment. I gently shoved him out and joined the NN in the kitchen as she was trying to calm down a hyperventilating neighbor. I really wanted to move the patient out of the floor, but I guess I've seen too much CSI and I felt like we shouldn't touch the body until she had been examined. We learned that the coroner had already been out. I still just could not figure out why they left her on the floor. The NN and I decided we would try to move her. Have you ever heard the expression "dead weight". Well, me and the little NN decided against that course of action because all I could think was that as if this was not traumatic enough for everyone could you imagine us dropping her in front of her family?!?!
So, I accompanied the NN to the bathroom as she performed the ritual flushing of the meds. By the time she finished that the funeral home got there. Praise the Lord!!!!!!!!!! As they were placing her on the stretcher I noticed that the name on the stretcher was not Enterprise. This tells you how clueless I was about these things. I thought maybe they had bought out another funeral home and were still using the old stuff. Y'know, like when Sara Lee took over Colonial Bread, but they still used some of the old trucks. I know, I know. Give me some credit y'all I had just seen my first dead body not already prepared in a casket. The NN also noticed this and questioned the family about it. They were not aware of the arrangements already made and CALLED THE WRONG FUNERAL HOME. Seriously. We talked to the men from the funeral home and explained the situation. They already had her in the hearse. I called the right funeral home to tell them what was going on and they agreed to drive to the wrong funeral home and pick her up.
It was some kind of night. It definitely guaranteed that I would never forget my first death call. Just so you know the NN and I actually became pretty competent at handling death calls. But, we became famous in our office for that particular visit. In fact, just last week when I went to the Memorial Service one of the nurses introduced me to a new employee and immediately had to tell her that story. I think it is my number one story archived in the "I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried" category of my life.
After all was said and done I couldn't help but laugh a few weeks after that visit when a commercial came on and said, "Call Enterprise. We'll pick you up." Yes, they really will.