What is spiritual care at Gilchrist Hospice Care? How does one capture and describe the essence of such kind of care in one simple blog post? October celebrates Pastoral Care Week. As a way of lifting up the ministry of spiritual care in hospice I include here reflections from three of the Gilchrist staff chaplains. I hope you enjoy what they have to share.
Chaplain Tom Kuller writes …
“One of my patients was a resident in a facility where many people lived who had no family or even visitors. It was clear to me that the residents of this facility formed a community among themselves. A number of the residents I later found out were “wards of the state” with significant physical and even mental health limitations. After my patient died, I discovered from the social worker there that the residents were eager to honor her with a memorial service. It was an honor to lead a service during which residents kindly and fondly remembered their friend. Photographs, memories, songs, and prayers were all shared. My role was more about coordinating than presiding. I was reminded of how important we can be for each other even in our day-to-day presence. I will always remember how this particular community was positively affected by the life and love of one of its own.”
Chaplain Samuel Abraham shares …
“Chaplains are trained to listen more than talk. A favorite author wrote, “Oh, that you would be silent and it would be your wisdom.” Through sensitive and patient listening we can assist our patients, families, and staff as they encounter and sometimes wrestle with feelings, issues, and problems at end of life. I recall a family member saying to her husband, “After Chaplain Sam started visiting mom my fear of death was gone forever.” Another shared, “Mom adored your visits, you brought so much comfort to her in her last moment of her life and she looked forward to your visits.” Some families worry about who will do the funeral or memorial service for their loved one. Often these services, organized and led by the chaplain, bring great comfort and peace to bereaved family and friends. Also chaplains minister not only to the patient and family but to staff and volunteers as well. Frequently staff will share how the chaplain’s presence and comforting words helped them to assuage their own grief as they say goodbye to a patient that they loved and cared for.”
And from Chaplain Annie Owens …
“I play an instrument called a Reverie Harp. I learned about the instrument as I was reading an article about the best practices of hospice chaplains. The chaplain who introduced the harp said he had a good singing voice but found other instruments to be too burdensome to carry. Also, the harp can be strummed or plucked without singing and makes a beautiful sound. This was an answer to my dilemma of carrying a guitar. Also, there is something reverent about the sound of a harp, like no other instrument made. I realized if even for one moment I might bring “reverie” to someone’s life, what an awesome gift that would be! Sometimes a chaplain and a patient meet only once. Often that one time is in the patient’s last hours or moments of life. The Reverie Harp gives me one more tool to reach out to the patient and their family. Recently I played music at the bedside of a dying patient. The family was so moved by the gesture that they invited me to preside at the patient’s funeral and play the reverie harp at the graveside. There is nothing more loving, nothing more spiritual than the ministry of presence. To “be” with patients and families are what chaplains are trained to do. But when I am able to help someone to experience reverie, I live into the heart of what Gilchrist Hospice Care aspires us to do; to profoundly enhance the end of life for those facing a life-limiting illness.”
The word reverie means; a visionary fantasy of happy, pleasant thoughts; dreamy thinking or imagining, especially of agreeable things; fanciful musing, a pleasant notion of daydream. To take someone out of their reality into a dream world, full of delightful imaginings.”
Music, eulogy, prayer, comforting non-judgmental presence, a shoulder to lean on for colleagues feeling exhausted by the rigors of their work … these are among the myriad of ways that our chaplains live out their call to serve. The chaplains here at Gilchrist come with many and varied backgrounds. Some have been spiritual leaders, pastors, priests, or rabbis throughout their working careers, still others experienced a call to ministry and chaplaincy later in life … all bring the heart of a servant to their work.
On behalf of all the spiritual care staff at Gilchrist, I extend warm greetings to each of you and pray blessings for your journey.
I dreamed that life was joy
I woke up
And I realized life was service
And realized service is joy