When last I posted, Lynette’s surgeon had just confirmed to me that she had Inflammatory Breast Cancer. In one of those statements I wish medical professionals would avoid, he said, “This sure did ruin my day.” I hope I don’t have to explain why that’s not really the thing to say to a patient’s husband.
I found my way back to Lynette’s room, where an explosion of “ugly crying,” interspersed with wailing ensued. I’m going to guess that I was far from the first husband of a patient on that floor to receive such devastating news, because the nurses gave me the space to wail, lament, and even scream. As a hospital chaplain, I had often been on the other side of such displays. I knew that trying to interrupt or stop them was 1. Futile and 2. Not healthy for the person grieving. It’s an odd feeling to both be feeling the intense grief and to be observing oneself experiencing it. Lynette’s friend Elizabeth came to her room while I was deep into the throes of my grieving. I was able to get out the words “Inflammatory Breast Cancer,” so she would know what had brought on the display. I asked her as well to give me space.
There was about an hour or so before Lynette would be back in the room from recovery. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was still a United Methodist pastor. I needed to contact the lay leadership of my church and my District Superintendent to let them know I would not be able to preach the following day. I also needed to get hold of Lynette’s sisters to let them know what was going on. I also had to think about what I was going to tell my children.