Sacred Encounters

Don Hohne, Clinical Lead - Spiritual Care, Gilchrist Hospice Care

We often talk of spiritual care as happening in the midst of a “sacred encounter”.  I recently experienced such a moment.

I had just finished leading a workshop at the Gilchrist Hospice Care Wellness Day Seminar for the bereaved and was having lunch with a group of conference attendees.  We were a group of five and the conversation turned to the sharing of stories of our loved ones and of the grief we felt since their death.

One of the women began to tell the story of the suddenness of her mom’s decline, hospitalization, and death only a few days later at Gilchrist Center.  She said, “It is so hard because my mom quickly became unconscious and I could not speak with her.  They encouraged me to talk to her because they say hearing is the last sense to go.  How do they know that?  Is it really true?”

 As we listened to her I could see, and feel, the pain so evident in her eyes.  It seemed that she wanted desperately to know if her mom had heard her.  I said, “I don’t know if there is any medical research but I can tell you of an anecdotal experience that I had.”  My tablemate nodded and leaned in to listen.  I continued, “A few years ago I served as chaplain to the mother of two daughters who struggled as their mom slipped further into an unconscious state.  The staff had encouraged the children to continue talking to their mom.  Well one day as I was visiting with the daughters at the bedside of their mom one of the children knelt down and whispered softly into her mom’s ear for a time.  As she spoke we saw a tear form and fall from her mom’s eye.  It was clear to us that her mom had heard her and had felt her presence with her.”

 As I related the experience of that earlier sacred encounter I saw in my friend’s eyes the moment of a new sacred encounter.  She filled with tears and said simply, “thank you”.  And then the others at table began to share and support this woman and each other with their own feelings and tears.  For a brief moment that day we were ‘one’ as we cared for each other in the sharing our grief.  Such are the moments of sacred encounter and spiritual care.

 Blessings for a peaceful season of Thanksgiving and Joy,

Chaplain Don


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