Entry #23: I’ll be SEEING you!
Have you ever planned to be sick, injured or in a traumatic event? None of us if we're honest thinks that it will ever happen to me until it does. What will you do? No one ever knows these types of moments, where you are found vulnerable, fearful, afraid, and in need of healing help. Yet, it happens every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to someone. Hello, I’m Chaplain Pressey, I’m here to serve you by providing you with spiritual care. We make many life plans and goals never imagining that this could happen to any of us, at any moment. I’m sick, hospitalized, and afraid. In the midst of me being admitted, I’m asked, “would you like to see a chaplain?” I say, YES, not even knowing that I have agreed to see a spiritual stranger during my hospital stay. I have no idea of what they do, but I want one. I’ve called upon a stranger to talk to, to pray for me, or to comfort me when I need it.
Chaplains prepare and train countless hours for this single moment to serve you spiritually. We’ve spent numerous hours in clinicals to experience all types of situations just for you. We’ve even sacrificed our own personal lives, to stay with you even when our shift was up. Our emotions and mental empathy to be with you, we may carry for days after we saw you because we cared. We want to be prepared for you when you need us during your medical and/or spiritual crisis. Some of us have even endured/experienced personal attacks and verbal assaults during our spiritual care visits with you. And even some chaplains have sustained spiritual moral injuries from performing other faith traditions rituals and religious acts that goes against their own personal faith tradition to provide spiritual care to you.
Moral injury is sometimes called a soul wound. It can arise due
to what one has done, participated in, witnessed, or failed to do.
When your job is to care for people at their most vulnerable,
violations of that care, and the trust involved, can leave you
feeling transformed. It can make you doubt yourself as someone
who tries to do what is right. You can feel alone, betrayed, pushed
into a corner. (Rambo, Wiinikka-Lydon, & Okafor, 2020, pg. 18)
Personally myself, I have endured being yelled at, cussed at, grabbed, pulled, pushed out the door and still met the needs of other faith traditions for the sake of comforting you. Yet, I quietly stayed with you until you calmed down, cried, screamed, or fell asleep. Except for when I was pushed out the door, I didn’t return and I noted it in the patient’s charts so other chaplains wouldn’t visit that patient for their safety. Sadly, that patient was a very sick 13-year-old child who did that to me. We do all of this just for you to not be alone. Chaplaincy isn’t a game, it’s a serious calling, I’ll be seeing you!
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down
his life for his friends. (John 15: 13, KJV)
I had a senior male patient in his 70’s, he was on comfort care, which means he was dying and they were keeping him comfortable. When I entered his room for our visit after reviewing the consult sheet on him, I had noticed that he had not listed any religious preference. Remember a patient, family member, and/or hospital staff person can request a chaplain visit consult. So, I was there because it was requested. Good morning, Mr. Needs Love (assumption) I am Chaplain Pressey and how are you today? (In his basing, contempt voice to me), I’m Dr. Needs Love, to you! I’m so sorry, Dr. Needs Love, I noticed that you listed no religious preference. Who needs a religious preference, anyway? Well, it can assist us in knowing how to serve you spiritual care. He angrily, sat up screaming at me, and told me to get out of his room, pointing at the door, I wasn’t even sure why he kicked me out of his room. But I quietly left his room immediately as he requested.
I stopped at the nurse’s station across from his room to document comments about our visit so I could chart it later in the system. I stood there thinking what had just happened, but the patient could see me from his room window as I was writing. I finished my documentation and turned around to leave. To my amazement, the patient asked me to come back in his room with a softer tone. I nervously stepped back inside and said, yes, Dr. Needs Love, standing closest to the door, how can I help you? And it happened, he started to talk, he told me about his previous religious affiliation. He told me that he was divorced, he told me how angry he was that he was now dying, alone. He told me that he had children and no one had come to visit him. He told me many things as I listened to him. His sadness and anger over his life poured out.
But then he stated, “Forgive me,” this harsh man was dying alone and a hurting broken man. Very cautiously, I asked could I pray with him. To my surprise he said yes, (now remember I had know guiding religious preference to lead me in praying for him). So, I just prayed in a posture of caring love and led him to a repentance & seeking forgiveness prayer. As I started to pray with him, I moved closer to his bed and took his hand. This entire time I had been standing at the foot of the bed closest to the door. When I took his hand, he squeezed my hand and bowed his head and began to silently weep. I closed the prayer, he looked up at me and told me thank you. I left his room knowing that he was transformed and at peace.
The lesson here as chaplains, one never knows what we will encounter when we provide spiritual/pastoral care. Regardless of our own faith tradition or religious preference, most of us serve from a place of love, empathy, and kindness. The last thing that one desires as a chaplain for no patient to dies alone. By the way, my hospital established a protocol/policy that no patient is to die alone. So, I’ll be seeing you to fulfill my chaplain calling, just as you are, hoping to provide you with pastoral/spiritual care, comfort, and/or the gift of presence.
Here’s a sneak preview, “The Moral of the STORY!” Until next time.
For the sake of the Chaplain’s healing, CALL!
Chaplain Jacqueline M. Pressey, Ed.D.
Rambo, Wiinikka-Lydon, & Okafor, 2020. Retrieved October 29, 2021. TRAUMA
AND MORAL INJURY A Guiding Framework for Chaplains from Chaplaincy