A call in the middle of the night is never going to be a good thing in a presbytery. Tonight’s call was to ask me to attend the nursing home to anoint someone who was dying.
I grabbed my sick bag, which I keep in a cupboard in the hall, and left the house as quietly as possible so as not to wake the rest of the household.
This is one of the drawbacks for married clergy with children. The need to be available as a priest doesn’t disappear because I have a family. It is a factor that is not often reflected upon in the debates about married clergy. Like most priests, I am also on call for the local hospital and so the nights when I am on the rota will often involve being summoned there, too.
The country lanes on the way to the care home take on a different character during the early hours of the morning. I passed an owl as I drove down a single-track lane but met no other traffic as I made my way.
I always feel a great sense of privilege to be with someone and their family during their final few hours of life. I did not know the person today as they had only recently been admitted to the home. We do visit each week with Holy Communion but this man had not been added to our regular list.
Not knowing a person or their family in this situation makes it harder. Sadly, in most situations when I am called out, the person will be a stranger. With someone that I have known there is always a sense of relationship. When I have never known the person, I do my best to strike up a rapport with the family but the sad circumstances make this difficult and small talk is not always appropriate.
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