The Phone Call That Almost Wasn’t


One of my readers, a hospice volunteer, submitted a poignant account to Offbeatcompassion. She was definitely in the right hospital room at just the right time of the patient’s life, and had to strike a delicate balance between hinting at possibilities and violating confidentiality:

She writes,“Volunteering is great – there’s always some grace among the mundane. As I was making my rounds in the hospital, I happened to be in a room with a dying patient when the phone rang beside his bed. The person on the other end was an old friend calling from a thousand miles away who had just found out his friend was in the hospital (let alone dying). I remarked to the caller that I didn’t think this patient would be able to hold the phone at this point and was quite sleepy, but I could at least hold the phone to his ear anyway. The friend hesitantly said that ‘Maybe um I should call back at a better time.’  I told him he better go for it now because ‘you never know…’ etc. (I can’t reveal much about a person’s condition of course.) When I put the phone to the patient’s ear and he heard his friend’s voice, he grinned from ear to ear and attempted responses as best he could. I was so happy to facilitate that conversation because I would be surprised if that patient made it through the night. I hope that when his friend receives the news of his death, he’ll be comforted that he didn’t take a chance on calling back another time.”

We tend to think there is plenty of latitude for loving occurrences, whereas the slightest variable can shrink that opportunity to near zero in a flash. Do you have a story about seizing the moment?


Announcement: In case you missed it, the Secular Chaplain, on guard against religious platitudes and lover of the inherent sacred beauty of nature, reviewed Encountering the Edge. I (whew!) passed his phony-use-of-religion test:




5 thoughts on “The Phone Call That Almost Wasn’t

  1. Vicki says:

    I love how you framed this Karen – and congrats on a stellar review !


    • Many thanks. I think framing on the part of hospice workers goes a long way toward helping them and in this case readers as well, be receptive to poignant, meaningful and even transcendent moments. So nice that within a couple hours of writing this post, two people have commented. We also owe our thanks to the hospice volunteer who contributed this story in the first place.


  2. An excellent example of grabbing the moment, Karen. Reminds me of many times working with street “outsiders” who would be with us one day and dead the next. Sobering indeed.

    On a related subject, I’ve been meaning to say that “off-beat” may be a misnomer. It seems to me that a relevant chaplain’s work is “on-beat” in many ways. We used to say that our finger was on the pulse of the community and that we would be present at the “pulse points” where humanity is most vulnerable. Musically, I think people like you may be off beat with the culture but fully on beat with the drum major of compassion!


    • …And the beat goes on! Seriously, although I spent untold hours–nee many days’ worth of hours– thinking of the title for the book, when I created this blog last July, somehow the blog name jumped out of my subconscious in seconds! Besides being catchy, what I like about it is all the thoughts and questions it generates. And even now I am not fully conscious of why it has felt right to me. May your drum and mine continue to beat together in the service of authenticity.


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