It was 7:30 on a Thursday night. The moon was full and all was quiet on my seventh floor, 29-patient psychiatric ward.  I was the Charge Nurse:  I had two psychiatric technicians to assist me.  I was charting at the desk.  “Excuse me.  I’m looking for Mrs. Anna McPhearson.”  I looked up at this gentle-faced, kind woman of about 40 years.  She looked at me in her colorful winter attire and smiled, told me she was Chaplain Irena and remarked surprisingly that the unit was extremely quiet, the most serene she had ever experienced.  She went on to say that she had visited countless hospital psychiatric wards in the early evening and never had she felt the calm peacefulness of this unit.  Chaplain Irena obviously sensed a spirit of calm and serenity, a spirit of prayer and quiet confidence.  She asked how it was that this quietness and stability can be reached. I told her I was a Christian and I prayed not only for my patients’ well-being but for guidance in caring for them, for organizational skills to meet their needs efficiently and effectively, and for the Holy Spirit’s leading in my deed and my word.  She did not know that the unit was filled with probably the most serious variety of troubled souls that I had ever cared for simultaneously…all in different stages of their diseases. The unit was comprised of the homeless poor, having slept outside all winter, despondant and cold; those who had attempted suicide, the physically compromised and mentally tormented; the psychotic, the wounded and depressed; the alcoholics nearing death.

The night was long and filled with treatments, assessments, monitoring, medications and walking and running, supervising, documenting, and keeping a watchful eye on those in my care.   I often felt as though I could almost inhale the sweet peace of God’s presence while I cared for the sick.  I would come to a point in the evening where I had completed each patient’s ‘nursing care.  At that point, the Lord was in charge, completely, keeping them safe, watching over them as I charted and prepared for the oncoming staff for the next shift.  Chaplain Irena said that she came to the unit to visit a patient and that she did.  She will never know, however, that the message she carried to me was one of excitement and calm all rolled up into one feeling.

Chaplain Irena and I had shared so much of God’s love and His peace and His promise.  I’ll always remember this lady, a lady who passed through my unit to let me know in her own way that my relationship with the Lord had a distinctive impact not only on her but on my caring for the sick.  It was as though she came to me personally, as a messenger from God. There was a messenger on that cold December night, who spoke kind words of affirmation, with a smile and a sense of understanding, with a calm assurance that she saw something different on my unit that night.  I thank God for the confirmation statement of my mission, my calling, through the sweet Chaplain Irena ~ that the peace of God on that unit was visible to someone else, aside from me and that someone else spoke to me about the palpable presence of that peace that I experienced because she experienced it. And I thank my God and my Savior for this blessed experience of His love and of His grace.

© October, 2012 Carole Castagna