May 27, 2020

May 27, 2020

Image:Barbara Ryther

Compline has Become My Solace
Barbara Kautz

Fifty years ago I was a 2LT in the Army Nurse Corps, assigned to a neuro-surgical ICU in Vietnam, working 12-hour shifts, six days a week in a windowless Quonset hut. Our ICU was considered the worst place to work in the hospital, our death rate higher than that of the ER. Our reputation set us apart. No one wanted to visit Ward 5 just to say “hi.”

The nature of a Quonset, combined with our reputation, created a sense of isolation. We learned to depend on each other because, inside the curved metal walls of Ward 5, we were all we had. At the end of the day friendship of five fellow nurses sustained me. Often, we could be found sitting in someone’s room, writing sanitized letters home, making light of our lives so our mothers would not worry too much about us.

So, I can easily envision the strain medical teams, in gowns, gloves, and N-95 masks endure, caring for COVID-19 patients, even though they may not be physically isolated after work in quite the same way we were.

With the passage of time and then retirement my contact with other women of my generation has shrunk. Outside the women in my church family, only one person lives close by. Once we worked side by side helping babies into the world, our gloved hands touching as we kneaded a mother’s abdomen so her normal post birth bleeding would not become a hemorrhage.  Now my friend is isolating, too. 

How could I find fellowship in this difficult yet oddly familiar situation, reminding me so much of my life in Vietnam?

The answer came in late March when Ryan invited the congregation to join him at Compline—via Zoom–every night at 8:30 PM. Now, as the moments tick toward 8:30,  I stop whatever I’m doing, sign-on to the St George’s Zoom meeting page, then greet people as each of us join—from our homes. Always, Ryan and Sudie encourage us to breathe deeply, let go of the day’s troubles, and share our concerns. And then use the words of Compline to release those concerns to God—and pray. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we are close to tears, but for those 20 minutes I find joy, and gratitude that I am not alone.