Archive for Chaplain

In the Room Overlooking the Bougainvillea

With a window overlooking the bougainvillea

The patient was restless . . . to the extreme.

An ambulance transported her to our hospice’s inpatient facility—a renovated suburban house in a neighborhood close to the main office—for pain management. The only local family for the dying eighty-something woman was a granddaughter, overwhelmed by raising her own kids while serving as her Gram’s sole caregiver. The patient’s siblings had already died. The patient’s daughter was, again, in rehab in Florida. Her son was an Army officer stationed in Germany, scrambling to organize a plane flight to be with his mother before she died.

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Right now, in the hospice home, in a room with a window overlooking the bougainvillea adorning a fence, the restless patient, a nurse, the doctor, and the chaplain were gathered. One bed was empty. But the second bed by the window, where the patient lay, shifted with her unsettled body, with her soft random moaning, with her eyes opening and closing.

The doctor had tried several medications that she thought might calm the patient. To a certain extent, the dosages worked. Her agitation had lessened. Barely.

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An Abundance of Baptists!

Old Time Religion

We were discussing the new patients being admitted to hospice care. One of our chaplains* explained that a patient had “. . . a Baptist background, but couldn’t attend church anymore.”

Moments later, describing the next new patient, the same chaplain said, “She was a Baptist, but hasn’t been in any church since ‘they started projecting those dumb songs on the wall.’” He paused, then smiled. “Her words, not mine.”

And then, about another of his assigned patients: “He was raised Baptist, but said he lost interest in going to church after his children grew up and moved away.”

On that morning, at our patient care meeting**, it seemed each of that particular chaplain’s new patients were raised in, had been affiliated with, or were once deeply involved in churches from the many variations of the Baptist denomination. Hey, how many Baptists can you fit in a room?

But it’s just as likely the next meeting, with the next new patients, will reveal a variety of religious allegiances: Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim . . . along with the vast array of Christian “tribes” (from Armenian Orthodox through Russian Molokan to the Church of the Latter Day Saints). While there may not be as many religions as grains of sand on the beach, counting them would still be intimidating. There are major religions. Minor religions. There are faith traditions that hardly anyone practices anymore. Some denominations are growing and expanding. Certain ones seem quaint (and are often stereotyped) like the Amish. There are examples like Scientology, which may not be considered a religion, or even religious, by many—but it represents the only way to have meaning in life by adherents. Read More →Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Why Do Patients Refuse to Meet the Hospice Chaplain?

My boss and I had a brief, pleasant disagreement about the title of “chaplain.” She (I hope this is a fair summation) worries that certain hospice patients refuse a chaplain’s visit because of the title.

Could introducing someone as a “chaplain” lead to a closed door?

I think my boss is right. And . . . wrong.

Even though she’s correct 98.3% of the time (please tell her I said that), I wonder if the stumbling block is what a chaplain is perceived to represent. Wasn’t Shakespeare correct in “Romeo and Juliet:” What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet? Whether the chaplain is Jewish or Buddhist, a layperson or professional clergy, volunteer or paid, they all carry the fragrance (or stink) of . . .


Since ordination in 1977, I’ve had various titles: deacon, elder, minister, pastor, associate pastor, senior minister, lead minister, new church start pastor, campus minister, hospice chaplain, and currently a bereavement support specialist. When a new hospice staff member or a grieving family member asks about my background, I’ll mention I’m a United Methodist clergy.


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