April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Dear Patient,

I wish I did not have to meet you in the hospital, let alone during this indescribable pandemic that we are facing. I wish that the recovery from your surgery progressed the way it should have and the complications did not arise. You needed to be in the hospital for several weeks with two of them being in the ICU. Though thankfully you did not have COVID-19, you suffered as a result of it too. Due to the virus, no visitors were allowed in the hospital. You were unable to see your close family and friends whom you love and value so much. This was painful for you and affected your progress and outcome.

As a chaplain, I wish that during our visits I was able to sit by your side and hold your hand as I normally would have done. I wish I did not have to stand by the doorway, six feet away, wearing a mask. I wish I did not have to hear from you how scared, isolated, hopeless, helpless and anxious you feel. I wish you did not beg me to stay in your room.

I wish that your family or friends could have been the ones to bring you that vanilla milkshake. The milkshake that I made special accommodations to get for you from the hospital cafeteria because I knew how much you were craving it. I will always remember the look of happiness when you received it, but I wish I did not have to be the one to bring it to you.

I wish that the nurses were able to come in more frequently to check in on you. However, many are feeling overwhelmed and displaced themselves. I know they are doing, and can only do, their best. They treated you as they would their own family.

I wish that throughout the long day in the hospital you were able to distract yourself by watching something on TV, but you couldn’t, because the only programming that seemed to be playing related to COVID-19, which scared you even more.

I wish that, during our prayers to God, we did not have to pray for the many people you knew who are ill from the virus. However, it touched me tremendously how you were always thinking of others even when you were so ill yourself.

I wish that, while you were dying, your family was able to be around your bedside, reassuring you, talking to you, and holding your hand. Though I was able to FaceTime you with your family, I wish those final goodbyes could have been said in person. And as we FaceTimed during those moments, I wish I did not feel like I was intruding on such a private time between you and your family, as your family was crying and saying their goodbyes to you… I wish your family could have been present to say the end of life prayers with you themselves and it did not have to be me. I wish you didn’t have to die like that.

Dear Patient, though I have many wishes, I want you to know that it was an honor for me to be in the hospital with you at this time, from beginning to the end. I was able to listen to you, support you emotionally and spiritually and be a medical advocate for you. I was able to help you see your family via FaceTime, which always brought smiles and tears to your face. I was able to say many prayers with you throughout our visits. I had the true privilege of being there with you during your final moments and saying the end of life prayers, which I know brought you and your family much comfort.

I know that each and every person who tended to you—be it a nurse, doctor, phlebotomist, cleaning crew, all of the many therapists, food service personnel, patient transport staff or chaplain—all cared so much for you. They worked so hard, with the utmost concern, sensitivity and empathy, and did their best to help you. They often stayed after their official shift was over or came in earlier than they were supposed to, just to be with you. They are all extremely dedicated human beings who put their hearts and souls into whatever they do.

Patient, you were never just a “bed number” or another person who passed away during this pandemic. You impacted all who met you. You will always be remembered.


Debby Pfeiffer is a board-certified chaplain working at Morristown Medical Center through its affiliation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest, NJ. She resides in Bergenfield, NJ, with her husband and children. She can be reached at [email protected].

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