All that waiting and cultivating patience has paid off, as I will start training for my new hospice chaplain position next Tuesday, June 4. Hallelujah! The director and I expressed our relief, and I admitted to her that I had been a bit stressed out. I didn’t know it until I explored some physical symptoms I’ve been having recently, and I came up with stress as the culprit. I am over that now, thankfully.
It was quite a lesson in patience and remaining calm, and I wasn’t always good at it. Trust in God and the process, I kept telling myself. The reminders worked to get me back on track. It also showed me how delightfully human I am, that I could become bothered over this.
I thought the wait to start was overly long, but someone shared with me that their process from being interviewed to starting a position was over six months. Good grief! Apparently I don’t have much to complain about, so I won’t.
It’s been interesting to listen to various people’s reactions when I tell them what I’m going to be doing. Last night an acquaintance shared that she couldn’t do that job, because she would be crying all the time. I understand that. Hospice work is not for everyone, and yet it is such an enriching and rewarding path to take. My sharing in my brother’s hospice experience, followed by training and my first position. showed me beyond a doubt that this is what I am called to do. Called by God for this specific type of ministry, using my training and my personal skill set.
Why is that? When I entered ministerial training, I found that I was a better talker than listener, and vowed to develop and refine my listening skills. “Active listening” is one of the techniques I learned. One keeps one’s mind totally on what the other person is saying, without rehearsing what should be said in reply. When the speaker is done, the listener restates what he or she has heard, checking for accuracy and clarification. I’m not doing it justice, but it was a game changer for me. ma.king me aware of how little I was actually listening. I usually wanted to be ready to jump in with my story, my response, my take on the subject. And I wasn’t listening!
In chaplaincy training, I learned to let the patient tell me his or her story, without interruption from me. Oh, that was hard at first. I learned to wait, following up with questions for clarification. I learned to be present in the moment, giving the patient the gift of my attention.
I learned not to offer advice unless it was specifically asked for. This lesson has served me well in all aspects of my life, as most times, people just want to be heard. I learned to bring out more from the person by remaining quiet, by nodding, by looking them directly in the eye.
Why am I a hospice chaplain? It is my ministry, my gift. I say this humbly, because it is my life experiences that have taught me how to be around death, how to support a loved one as she or he takes the journey toward death, how to support others after a sudden and unexpected death. I have learned to practice better self-care, so that I am able to be present with and support others. I know some of what families are going through as their loved one nears death, and I am able to be with them as well.
I am very excited to be starting this new position, as I’m sure my reader can tell. I know my patients to come will have many stories to tell. They may also have bucket lists of things left to do, including forgiveness work. God, may I be a blessed support and a loving presence.