Yesterday, I posted that I am a hospice chaplain. That usually results in two reactions from people…
“Wow, you’ll do well at that.”
“Wow. That’s gotta be tough. You sure you know what you’ve gotten yourself into?”
Before I address those reactions, let me clear up a myth about hospice. The hospice movement is relatively new, having been in existence for only several decades. People hear the word “hospice” and automatically think one thing: death. Many people think slow, untimely, painful death. In some cases, that is true. But having worked in hospice, let me tell you this:
Hospice is about life.
Hospice is about stories.
Are our patients facing death? Yes. Some much sooner than they should. Most are facing terminal illness for which the doctors have said there is nothing more medically that can be done. But they are still living (although I have done spiritual assessments on patients who died hours later), and their families and friends will still be living after their loved one passes. My job, along with the jobs of my team (nurses, aids, volunteers, social worker) is to help our patients live as comfortably as possible during their remaining time in this life. We neither hasten nor hinder the dying process. We bring comfort–whether physical comfort, comfort in social and financial issues, or spiritual comfort.
I get to assist with a lot of life review. I get to hear people’s stories. Some are inspiring. Some are tragic. All are about life. I have a chance to help people and families start to find closure, to mend broken fences, to seek forgiveness, and to give forgiveness. I am humbled that I’ve been given the opportunity to be a part of that.
Is it tough sometimes? Yes. We get attached to our patients, and it is tough when they pass away. This is especially true in my case, for while most of those who ask for the chaplain (I only go see those who ask for me) are people of faith, some are really struggling, hoping they are good enough for God. Some desire to talk about it, others do not. Others pass before we’re able to talk about it in depth. That is tough… but it reminds me how important my part of the hospice team is.
So is it tough? Yes. But it is one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever loved (disciple-making and church planting being the others).
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about another myth about my job that people have mentioned…