Indulge me a moment, but here's one more photo of my last day as a hospital chaplain, back in June. I'm really going to miss this work, the staff and patients and their families. The work has been both incredibly rewarding and challenging.
Most recently, as examples, I got word from a woman whose young adult daughter died in the emergency department from a heart attack, likely caused by drug use. The mother was strong, and my heart ached to try and understand what it must feel like to see one of your children die so young from something you could not control. The mother had no family support with her, so I spent a lot of time at her side. Most times, I never see or hear from families again, but word traveled in this case. The mother happens to know one of the other chaplains out in the community, and she asked him to tell me how much she appreciated my support. That meant so much.
On the more challenging end of things, I spent time with another mother but in a different situation, one I'd just as soon avoid. I was called to see a patient on one of the surgical floors, but it turns out the visit was really for the mother. The patient was her adult son, and he was resting and sedated. But the mother was anxious, convinced he would soon die and, according to her, go to Hell because of the life he was living. She was in tears, and to help relieve her anxiety, begged and pleaded for me to "pray the Sinner's Prayer" so her son would go to Heaven should he die. In fact, she didn't even want him to be awake for this--she just wanted me to pray over him! Of course, there are all kinds of ethical problems with this, and it was more about the mother than the son. Now, if the son had been alert and completely willing of his own desire, sure, I would have prayed this with him even as a Pagan. I believe that if Jesus exists and goes by his promises, that's all that matters; it's about the person praying (the patient), and not me, who is only a facilitator and guide. But it was stressful trying to figure out what to do in the moment, what was best for everyone involved. Fortunately, a number of things happened, a doctor came in, the patient woke up--so in the end, the mother got distracted and her request was dropped. I think I handled the situation well, everything considered, but it's those scenarios I won't miss.
And who knows where Spirit will lead next! Now that I'm officially moved to Virginia, I remain connected to my Vodou community, to Sacred Well Congregation and to Cherry Hill Seminary. I hope to use my chaplaincy skills with these fine folks and with others who cross my path in the future.