There is so much I want to tell you about this new adventure in chaplaincy at St. Francis Hospital but so much of it, for obvious reasons, has to remain confidential. Like three other chaplain residents, and the staff chaplain, I make rounds to patient rooms and rotate call for deaths and other emergencies. For instance, one night I got paged for a patient experiencing extreme fear. The nurse thought he was in need of consolation. I prayed with the man and, though he couldn’t speak, his eyes told me he was afraid. He shed tears. He was only able to nod at my questions because he had a tube down his throat.
The next day, I followed up on him. He was off the ventilator but was saying some funny things. I found myself in an odd place, between expressing compassion and sympathy, and laughing at his funny comments. Might have been the drugs talking (his, not mine.)
In addition to making rounds at the main hospital, we have responsibility for leading groups at a local psychiatric hospital, and for inmates at the county jail.
We process much of what we’re experiencing with each other, and with our supervisor. At times it seems like navel gazing; but I do believe that knowing how I tend to react in certain situations better prepares me for each visit.
I can say that the nearly non-stop newspaper business prepared me well for chaplaincy in many ways, not the least of which is meeting people I don’t know, and entering into situations that make me afraid.
Today I watched someone die. Though I’ve seen it before, it’s certainly never easy being with the families, as each case is individual.
My colleagues and I laugh a lot when we’re together, believe it or not. It’s probably because we need this kind of release in a place where pain, struggle and hardship flow like a left-on tap.