This is another one of those unusual incidents that I faced during my Pastoral Care Education Residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital. I was in a mood over the weekend and wrote one that was really creepy called The “Eyes” have it; they’ve got Sammy Davis Eyes….an Experience from My Clinical Pastoral Education Residency about a day where I dealt with two unusual eye cases. That one read almost like something from “Tales from the Crypt” or “Tales from the Dark Side.” This is less creepy and sort of ironic in a weird sort of way.
The day was one of those typical Parkland days during my residency where the abnormal was the norm and norm was not doing so well….or at least Norm (my name for this particular patient- the name has been changed because his real name was probably even more boring) wasn’t doing well. But first let me lay a little background.
Some people live life with secrets. Yes my friends SECRETS. These are dirty nasty secrets that they don’t even share with people inside their “circle of trust.” In fact I had a brother in law who was much into something called bigamy which if you ask me wasn’t very biga-him or bright of him. We figure that he had a number of “families” and since he can’t be found in the Social Security Death index assume that he was operating under a number of names and socials….but I digress God rest his soul.
It seems that sudden and uncontrolled events sometimes bring secrets to light, in fact I think that somewhere Jesus said something about this… something like whatever is done in the dark will be seen in the light…you something like that. Sometimes these traumatic events reveal secrets that are for the individual a fate worse than a fate worse than death…which in the case of Norm was true in both ways. Its almost like when “Death” shows up in an episode of Family Guy and I can in sense see this happening with Norm, Death deciding to visit him at work.
Norm as I call him had an accident at work….he worked in an oil refinery and since we all know from Al Gore that oil companies are all bad it was probably their fault. However….Norm had a very bad day, in fact it could be labeled the suckiest last day of his life where indeed Death paid him a visit. We don’t know really what happened but toward the end of the work day Norm the unfortunate either fell into a vat of hot tar at the refinery and subsequently went into cardiac arrest, or he went into cardiac arrest and fell into the vat of hot tar. So the Dallas Fire Department EMS showed up quickly and with the assistance of the refinery rescue team extracted him from the muck, got an airway began CPR and rushed the tar covered Norm to Parkland where as usual when odd things occurred I was on call. As they brought him in the paramedics had the pneumatic CPR machine known as “Thumper” going and were “bagging” him. Needless to say Norm did not look too well. He was brought into the Cardiac Resuscitation room one, a fully equipped state of the art room designed to give the treatment team on the Medicine side of the ER the best chance to save someone’s life, they were a medicine version of our Trauma rooms on the surgery side of the ER. However the team realized very quickly that Norm had bought the farm and the code was called.
I began to work with the nursing staff to try to find out if Norm had any family but stopped when a woman identified as his wife showed up. She was escorted into one of our three ER consult rooms by one of our Police officers. There a young resident did his best impression of Star Trek’s Doctor McCoy “Mrs. Norm…he’s dead.” I think he expressed his condolences as well, he answered her questions the best that he could while the nursing staff and I supported and calmed her. When he was done and death and funeral home paperwork was done we escorted Mrs. Norm to see her now departed husband and after a tearful visit to him we took her back to the consult room, gave her a chance to compose herself and ask more questions. When she was done she departed saying that a friend was waiting for her. With that done the nursing staff began to prepare his body for the morgue where he would briefly remain until the Dallas Country Medical Examiner staff picked him up. I busied myself with taking care of the staff and checking the charts and paperwork since Chaplains were also the guardians of the Morgue since the Pastoral Care Department also handled Decedent care.
About 45 minutes after the wife had left the officer who had escorted her to the consult room came to me. He said “Chaplain his wife is here.” I looked quizzically at him and said “No she left.” With a bit of a smile the officer, a really good guy looked at me and said “No Chaplain not her, another one.” I was floored. Another wife? This certainly couldn’t be happening. I thought this happened only in remote parts of Utah where renegade fundamentalist splinter groups from the Mormon Church flaunted the main Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by practicing Polygamy and we were in the heart of Dallas with big hair, big cars, big churches and the Cowboys, but not this. After gathering myself I went to the physicians and nurses to tell them the good news. As they stared at me blankly I got the doctor who had talked with “Number One” to come and spend some time with “Number Two.” We repeated the procedure with wife number two, notification was given, pastoral care and prayer provided, a visit was paid to Norm but with the twist that the doctor asked if she knew about any other family. Which she did not and since “Number One” had presented the appropriate identification first we let “Number Two” know that she would probably have to deal with the hitherto unknown “Number One.” Surprisingly though the news had taken her by surprise she was sort of okay with this and left for wherever.
I went back to the doctor’s station where I was working on paperwork and talking with the incredulous staff about what had just transpired when one of the unit clerk’s came over to us. She said that Norm’s wife was on the phone. The doctor and I looked at each other and I asked “which one?” The clerk then said “the one in Mexico.” Yet a third wife….the doctor and I let her know that Norm had passed away and that she needed to contact the Medical Examiner’s office for more information. The doctor asked if Norm has any other “family” and “Number Three” said just her and her children. Norm really got around. The doctor and I decided not to break the fact that she was “third” to her and let the Medical Examiner’s office sort out the sordid details of this twisted evening.
So it was one, two, three wives and Norm was out at the old ball game. I have no idea what happened later but can only imagine what it would have been to be a cockroach in the cupboard listening to the meeting of these three women who all shared the love, or maybe the lust of Norm.
Peace and stay safe and keep those relationships in order for any of us could be the next contestant on “Death pays a Visit.”
Peace my friends,