Last Thursday morning I attended a funeral, last Wednesday evening I sat with a family in the hospital as they came to see the body of a young man before it was taken into the coroner’s care. Ostensibly, these two events were nearly the same. In each case loved ones came from all around to be together, and to be in the presence of the material left behind after the death of their loved one. In each case they cried, they laughed, they prayed, and they mourned, and yet these two events could not have been more different. A funeral is order tinged with the chaotic. It follows a course, moves in channels well-worn and cut by the endless streams of black clad mourners who have darkened church doors and funeral parlor lounges. The words and prayers have a cadence recognized by all, and in that routine the magic of familiarity and order gives scaffolding on which to hang powerful emotions. The hospital room, the dying chamber is often devoid of these predicable comforts. In those moments just after a death, where the flesh still contains a dim ember of the life that had burned out, where the blood is still damp and the bed is the one on which the act of dying had taken place; those comforts of the ordinary are no comforts at all. The hospital room is all chaos; order simply lingers on the margins, providing only borders. When we are there in those chaotic times, in those final moments of a life and those first moments of death we can be an anchor. Something for the families and loved ones to hold fast to as the world tosses and turns wildly around them. We are the skilled, the trained, and the experienced. We are those whose very presence tell the bereaved that they are not alone, that they stand in the company of millions who have known that same pain, and that they, like all those before them will find a new life on the other side of chaos. In that way, your very presence is a gift and a comfort. The greatest of honors, humbling and powerful.