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David's Story

Updated: 2 days ago

In my tenth year of professional chaplaincy, I moved to a sister hospital to assume responsibility for spiritual care and ethical liaison leadership. My first case in the ICU of that hospital was of a young man fighting a lethal cancer. He was unmarried over twenty and trying hard to recover. The young man was a member of the Chumash nation.

A Chumash man waves goodbye.

The young Chumash man was well supported by his tribe. He died merely days after he was brought to the hospital. At his death, his brothers asked the following: "Please release his body to us. We will take him to his burial ground in the Four Corners.” I promised to do all I could to help make sure the request was honored. I asked for a few moments to work on their request. I was in a bit of a panic. It’s against the law to travel around with a dead body. Further, transportation across the county and state lines with a dead body is wrought with problems and legal issues.

Soooooo, I called a friend at a local mortuary who frequently dealt with the transportation of the deceased to other states and countries. (Hawaii, Mexico, etc.) He promised to provide the paperwork for the transport. Then I met with the young man’s brothers and planned the action needed to abide by cultural traditions and get their young brother to The Four Corners with as little problem as possible. With the brothers' love and attention, the body left the hospital wrapped in an all-natural cloth. From the gurney, he was placed in a paper box that resembled a refrigerator box. This was to avoid suspicion and met the tradition of remaining as natural and earthy as possible. The box was carefully placed in the brothers' pickup truck. They drove directly to the burial ground stopping only for gas. The chart will show that the young man was released to a local mortuary. But now you know the story of what happened OFF THE CHART!

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