Sunday evening and I'm learning how to breathe again after the First Day of the Week with all its attendant stuff.
On my voicemail this morning, a request from a woman that I ask her nephew to put her and the grandmother on his visit list. She did not leave his name or Dept. of Corrections number. She did leave her own phone number. I called and left her a message: "If you give me his name, I can give him your message." Next?
One of the Catholic volunteers had an angiogram last week and the news "wasn't good," he said this morning. "Three veins go into the heart. All of them have some kind of blockage, and one of them, the doctor told me he had no idea how any blood was getting through." George goes to Seattle again tomorrow to consult with doctors. Added him to the prayer lists.
Email and voicemail from one of the mental health psychs, asking me to see a man who just found out he has renal failure. Could I talk to him? I'd forwarded the email to a colleague who is here on Fridays and Saturdays when I'm gone, hoping he could do an initial visit. But the colleague was home with a sick wife and child, so I went to see the offender in the hospital. I asked if he'd understood what the doctors had told him yesterday, if he knew the name of his condition. "They told me, but I don't understand." Lucky for me, I'd googled "renal failure" before I went to the infirmary, just enough to know there's "acute" and "chronic." I told him his kidneys weren't working 100%, that he'd need to talk to the doctors about living with something that couldn't just be "fixed." He wanted to talk to his mom. I need to find her phone number.
Back to the chapel and there's another voicemail. "This message is for John Smith, DOC number XXXXXX. His mother died at ten minutes to ten this morning." Click. No name or number for me to call to verify the information. The offender has been moved to another prison in the last couple of days. His mother's phone number is disconnected. I look on the computer records and find notes that his mother had been at a hospital in Tacoma recently. I called their Medical Records. No record of a patient by that name dying today. Further investigation shows that his mom was elderly, had had a fall, was taken off life-support a couple of days ago. I write an email and send it to the man's chaplain and counselor at the new prison, giving what information I've found. From the notes, he's known that his mother was not in good shape, so this may not be news for him today.
So what does all this have to do with the title of this post? We do five Word and Communion services for the Catholics here on Sundays. We have a worship sheet in English and Spanish that comes out of Los Angeles, a new one every week with all the prayers and readings. It's very useful, and very portable, which is important because we have long distances to cover and can't be hauling books around.
The inmate population is very transient, so, needless to say, I don't train any lectors, nor put them on a schedule, and no one gets to see the readings until right before the service. I ask for volunteers to read in whichever language is comfortable for them. Sometimes it takes a bit of coaxing (remember what it was like when you were in school?) and sometimes people volunteer very readily.
There are sometimes funny twists on the readings which can come from typos or misprints in the worship sheets or from a seriously unskilled reader who felt called to read today. A famous reading from Exodus once had "Moses went up to the mountain of Go." The reader confessed afterwards he didn't know how to pronounce the word. He'd never run into it before. When I told him it was the "mountain of God," he laughed and said, "Here I thought the Catholics had come up with a new version of Exodus!"
And then there are days when we are in the groove of things, moving right along, word perfect, and the gospel reader stands and says, "Aloha! Aloha!" and the gathered assembly says, right on cue, "Aloha! Aloha!"
Well, why not? It's a greeting, isn't it?
PS: You're going to pray for George, remember?