The first time I was scheduled to serve overnight as the on-call chaplain, I was paged at five a.m.  I groggily called the Intensive Care Unit, and spoke to a nurse who requested that I visit an anxious, weeping patient who would be undergoing surgery later that morning. I was told that the patient, "Andrew," was Orthodox Jewish. The nurse said that Andrew had a tracheotomy, and therefore could not speak.

The first time I was scheduled to serve overnight as the on-call chaplain, I was paged at five a.m.  I groggily called the Intensive Care Unit, and spoke to a nurse who requested that I visit an anxious, weeping patient who would be undergoing surgery later that morning. I was told that the patient, "Andrew," was Orthodox Jewish. The nurse said that Andrew had a tracheotomy, and therefore could not speak.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will my find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Gospel of Matthew 11:28-30

I entered the small ICU, which was silent but for the beeping ventilator and monitors. I introduced myself to Andrew, a fifty-something man with a scraggly beard and dark eyes. I told him that I was willing to sit with him in this time of anxiety, and would pray for him if he desired. "I understand you're Jewish," I said, thinking that I might try to locate a Rabbi.

He shook his head, and began awkwardly attempting to cross himself in what I realized was an Orthodox manner. "Oh!", I said, "You're Orthodox!" Apparently, his religious tradition was misunderstood upon admittance. "Actually, so am I!" I said. His eyes registered surprise and joy, and he began crying calmer, gentler tears. He took a pad and wrote in shaky letters, "I AM ORTHODOX. I AM SCARED." My heart sensed his profound anxiety." I put my hand on his shoulder and consoled him, and after a conversation (via the note pad) about his surgery, his fears and his faith, I offered to pray for him.

I taped a paper icon of the Resurrection on the wall across from his bed, and standing beside him, I chanted the Trisagion prayers and a Psalm. Andrew became visibly calmer. A sense of peace came over his face as he heard the deeply familiar verses of prayer. Minutes later, he left for surgery, trusting in God's protection. I did not see Andrew again, as he was transferred. I do not know the outcome of his situation. I was able to care for him for only that one, short moment of surprising fellowship; I let him go, entrusting him to God's care. I do believe that God brought me to him on that early morning, to ease his fears and to refocus our hearts on God's loving presence in a time of suffering.

Sarah Byrne is the Chaplain at All Care Hospice in Lynn, Massachusetts. She is endorsed as a chaplain by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and is board certified with the Association of Professional Chaplains. She received a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School, with additional study at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Areas of particular interest for Sarah include ministry in ecumenical and interfaith settings, music and ministry, Hospice and "the remembrance of death" and the role of faith in bereavement care.