On Saturday, I learned that a member of the mentally challenged community had suffered a brain hemorrhage and had been placed on life support.  The decision was made to disconnect her from life support that afternoon while we were in the middle of our Special Gathering program.  Phone calls from grieving staff who had worked with her most of her life came quickly into my phone.  Because we were having Special Gathering at the time that things were progressing, I could have been in a bit of a dilemma.

However, the Vero supervisor, Diane, immediately understood and she filled in the vacuum this emergency created.  She continued the program without missing a beat.  This is the second time that a pending death has happened during our Special Gathering program.  While I would not consider leaving our members, there are several things that can be put into place.

  1. Training in advance is perhaps the most vital key.  Because of the emphasis on health and safety that has been put into place at Special Gathering, I knew that the staff understood the importance of keeping our members in their normal routine and carrying the load while I was a bit out-of-pocket.
  2. Cell phones are perhaps a program directors greatest ally during a crisis situation.  Standing far enough away from our members so that they can not hear a deeply personal and private conversation, I can still be in view of SpG members and observant staff.
  3. Choosing the right staff may seem obvious; but there is no doubt that it is an issue that needs to be reviewed often. Careful staffing selection is the key but that is a different issue for a different day.
  4.  I’m learning that not everyone can supervise or improvise.  Both are needed during a crisis situation by the person who is in charge of supervision.
  5. Keep your composure at all times.  If you and your supervisor remain calm, your members will be calm.  There should be time for weeping; but while walking through the valley of the shadow of death, it a time for peace and calm, not drama and chaos.
  6. Pray freely with people to whom you are speaking.  Don’t be afraid to ask, “May I pray with you?”  During personal crises, we all can become overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness.  Counter that feeling with a confidence in God’s ability to make every circumstance right.
  7. Assure the people on the phone that you will come as quickly as possible.  I had a van route to do.  Therefore, I could not get to the hospital even after our program ended.  I explained to the people who needed to know what my afternoon process should be so that there would be no misunderstanding.

Perhaps the most important thing you bring to the table is your relationship and confidence in the Lord.  What are some of the things you have learning during crisis, especially a death, during your program?