Hospital chaplain describes healing the grief caused by COVID

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DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. — As thousands line up for the COVID vaccine, the number of new coronavirus infections are declining, and so have the number of deaths.

It’s a glimmer of hope for doctors, nurses and hospital chaplains, who deal with life and death on a daily basis.

Steve Edmonds has been director of pastoral care at Baptist Memorial Hospital DeSoto for 11 years. He admits no amount of experience could have prepared him for the challenges and questions brought on by COVID-19.

“Why me, why is this happening to me, why is this my mother, why is this my brother, why my father?” he said, recounting what he’s heard in the hospital.

He and 14 volunteer chaplains are on call 24/7 and admit the virus has been a test of faith as he tries to ease patients’ and families’ uncertainties of what lies ahead.

“I will tell family members, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know why it’s your family member, but we’re here for you and we’re going to be with you the whole way,'” he said.

Edmonds said chaplains also provide spiritual and emotional support for medical staff unable to save a patient from the virus.

“Some patients we’ve not been able to heal on this side. Some people have died from the virus and that’s hard on our staff, because a lot of our staff here, I find, take care of patients just like they would their own family members. So when one of their patients dies, it touches them.”

He said there’s no mistaking the power of prayer in someone’s darkest hours.

At the wooden cross in the lobby of Baptist DeSoto, those in need of spiritual help are urged to write down their prayer request and place it in a slot on the cross.

“We don’t look at those, we don’t read those, we pray over them, but we don’t read them. That’s strictly between them and God,” he said.

Edmonds said chaplains spend as much time as needed with patients, and in addition, respond to all emergency “code” calls in the hospital.

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