When first admitted into hospice care, one of the patients mentioned they looked forward to the chaplain’s visit. In recent years, before and especially during his illness, this person told the admitting nurse about reading (and re-reading) the Bible cover-to-cover.
“There’s nothing the chaplain can say that I don’t already know about the Bible.”
Did humility, humor, or hubris influence our new patient’s claim? Were the words boastful or spoken to avoid more difficult emotions? What is easily said on the “surface” may hide deeper questions or concerns. Like, Won’t someone please listen to me? or perhaps Let me start with a subject I can control—knowing the Bible—to eventually risk revealing what is out of control . . . my fear of dying.
Many of the people all hospices serve have faith traditions with a unique book. The Hindu reveres the Bhagavad-Gita. Jews claim the Torah. Christians embrace the New Testament. Muslims honor the Koran. Some patients may know little about the sacred text at the center of their religion, while others might possess a scholar’s awareness. A life-threatening disease can cause one person to explore—for the first time, or with renewed energy—the words of her faith, hoping to uncover answers or encouragement. The next person might scorn his religion’s traditions because the illness proves God doesn’t care or never existed.
A hospice chaplain enters into a person’s life, from hours to months. The chaplain has no interest in interpreting, defending, or condemning any scripture. Instead, what is important to the chaplain is what is important to the patient. Even more essential, what are the real hurts and hopes in the shadows behind a patient’s knowledge, ignorance, or doubts about their faith?
What are the deeper questions? Read More →by