Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuggle Abuse

The very large family was gathered in the hallways and sat on each other's laps in the ridiculously small waiting room outside the critical care area. Their loved one was dying and they had to make some tough decisions soon. The nurses had gently asked the family to step outside the unit so that they could clean up their loved one. They would let us know when we could return to spend time with her.

As a new friend or family member arrived, the daughters or husband would break into more tears. "I've cried so much that my face hurts," one said. It was a serious and sad time.

In the midst of this tense situation, we all began to take a breath. A dying-time-out for the fatigued family. And then Tuggle came off the elevator.

"Please step aside," it said.

The crying stopped. The wailing paused. The chatter silenced.

One of the grandkids stuck his foot in front of Tuggle, which made it stop and pause. The lights flickered and the family chuckled. "Backing up," it responded in its attempt to get around. Then the grand kid put his foot behind Tuggle. "Going around, please step aside," it responded. Thankfully, a friend of the family was the security guard and he gently touched the shoulder of the 16 year old. No words were exchanged, but everyone knew that bullying was not appropriate even with Tuggle.

Several family members looked at it, then at me, then at it, and then at me...what is that thing? Comic relief, I replied. Then I explained Tuggles job in the hospital and I asked what the family members thought of that. It provided us a conversation topic other than the dying family member.

I was glad for the relief. We all were. It made me think about the pastoral image of the circus clown. As author Heije Faber writes in the Images of Pastoral Care book, the function of the clown in the circus is to put things in perspective. "[the circus] makes us feel tense and frightened, but the clown puts it back in perspective. In a childish way he makes these stunt-men look a little foolish; he makes us feel that they are, after all, only human and ordinary, and thus re-establishes a sort of spiritual balance."

Tuggle provided a great service in those five minutes of lightness.

Now if only Tuggle would take all my on-call nights....

I tried to think of a scripture reference. I came up with nothing. Any ideas?

How is God interrupting with lightness and distraction in this moment?


  1. Good! The clown shows up again.
    Ecclesiastes 3:4
    a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, ?

  2. good! The clown shows up again.
    Ecclesiastes 3:4
    a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,??

  3. Vicki,
    I have a co-worker at the women's prison who sometimes seems to overdo it in the humor category. But your writing today helps me appreciate her anew. Perhaps I should be learning from her, not walking away.