Ok, technically I work at Supportive Care Orleans but, for the sake of simplicity, I will refer to it here as Hospice since that is the term most commonly used. And my title is Spiritual Care & Bereavement Coordinator but, rather than keep repeating that mouthful, I will just refer to myself as a Hospice Chaplain.
Ok, now that all that is out of the way, what I really want to do in today’s post is answer the question I have been asked the most since starting this role just over six months ago which is, “How Do You Like Working at Hospice?”
I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked some version of that question followed the statement “I couldn’t do it” or “I wouldn’t want to do that”. Of course what they are getting at is that they view ministering to those who are dying as a depressing occupation and having to deal with emotional family members, both before and after the expected outcome , as not much fun either.
I understand where they are coming from, and there are even days when I might agree with them, but overall my experience as a Hospice Chaplain has been very good and, though I may need to explain so that I don’t sound sadistic, I really like it. Here’s why…
- I honestly feel like God has both called and equipped me for this role. From ministering alongside hospice for many years as a pastor to being ministered to by the hospice staff and volunteers while caring for my mother I view my primary role as “Comforting others with the same comfort that I myself have received.” (2 Corinthians 1:4b paraphrase mine)
- I try to focus on the positives. It is hard saying goodbye again, and again, and again (I get attached quickly as many of you know ) but it is also a blessing to be able to say hello time and again to new patients, new caregivers, and new friends. Just as Tennyson once wrote that, “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” I have been so blessed by all who I have come in contact with through hospice that I would definitely agree that I would rather know each person, however brief, and to be saddened when they pass than to never to have know them at all.
- I can honestly say that I am in awe of my coworkers and all of the staff at Supportive Care. There are those who have worked in this area for a lot longer than I have but day in and day out they continue to offer quality, compassionate care to whoever comes our way. Their passion and perseverance inspires me to continue on even when the days are long and difficult.
- I feel most like a pastor again. As much as I have loved the different ways that God has used me over these past 3 years since stepping out of my role as Lead Pastor and starting Go Scatter Ministries I would say that I missed the fulfillment of walking with others through these transitional seasons of life.
And just in case you think I am romanticizing this role, or writing this while everything is going easy breezy, in the past five days since returning from Cattaraugus Christian Family Camp I have done two funerals, visited several patients at the residence or in their homes for Spiritual or Bereavement Care, performed grief counseling for a number of caregivers and made appts. for others, prepared for the first meeting of our caregivers support group tomorrow, participated in meetings, sent sympathy cards to several family members, called way too many spouses, siblings, sons, and daughters to offer condolences and assess how to best help them as they begin their grief journey, and just today I started early with a crisis call to go and offer support to a family whose loved one would pass hours later and my day ended with the sad news of another patient’s passing which took me by surprise.
For all intents and purposes I should be beyond poured out at this point (all this in 5 days and that doesn’t count my Go Scatter Ministry duties of preaching Sunday morning, counseling at Care-Net for most of the day on Tuesday, writing this blog, etc.) and to be sure I empathize with the families involved and will miss the patients but I also feel poured into as God uses me as His Feet, His Hands, and His Voice as I go and spend time holding a patient’s hand, giving caregivers hugs, or speaking words of comfort to those whose hearts are hurting.
I certainly covet your prayers, as I know all too well how quickly burnout can happen, but also want you to understand how grateful I am to God for giving me the opportunity and privilege to share Christ’s love with others in this unique way.