Freedom to Speak
A chaplain’s journey with someone may often begin like this: “Hello. My name is _______. I am a chaplain. I am available to you to listen to anything you may want or need to discuss regarding how you are thinking and feeling about your life today.”
Chaplains tend to the Spirit of a person—the Soul—one’s heart orientation that underlies and directs the rest of our living and being. Chaplains listen to one’s story—paying attention to basic anxieties, foundational commitments, fundamental beliefs, and ultimate concerns.
A person prospers from a chaplain visit, not because the chaplain knows a great deal or has all the answers to life’s questions, but because chaplains are unarmed and can set themselves aside for someone else to speak freely and openly—not only about their illness, their problems, or their present worries but also about…Why they lived the way they did? And, How they are now facing the task of living or dying?
Facing the Task
It may sound strange to consider your living and your dying as tasks to be undertaken. If you are like me, you want to avoid tasks…especially the task of dying. We’ve never done it before. No one can tell us what it is like, or what, if anything, is waiting for us on the other side. We have so many thoughts…..feelings……doubts…..questions…. Dying, for many, is the ultimate intimidation.
And yet, it is striking how many people describe their journey toward their dying in much the same way one might describe the birth of a child. We might pause to consider then that dying is not the Enemy at all, but instead is a necessary pathway toward a deeper and richer living.
We might pause to consider then that dying is not the enemy at all, but instead is a necessary pathway toward a deeper and richer living.
Borne into More
“We were floating along, protected, safe, warm. Life was good. And then suddenly, repeatedly, we experienced tremors in our existence. It was unpleasant.
There was a jolt, and the life we had known was washed away. The water was broken and we were thrust headlong into a disorienting, upside-down darkness. It was painful.
We were pushed, squeezed, and yanked into a harsh cold of an outside existence we knew nothing about — feeling the sting on skin we didn’t know we had, gasping for air with lungs we didn’t know we had, and spending every moment from that point on discovering that there was much more to us….to life….than we had ever thought possible.”
These words illustrate the horrifying and tumultuous beginning of life. These difficult experiences are not the harbingers of an impending doom, but describe the pangs of ensuing birth.
The Ends are Beginnings
When we are open to the task of living, we surrender to the repeating process of the known self dying and being born into a new creation. When we learn to swim, we surrender to the inevitability of the water. When we learn to love, we surrender to the inevitability of a broken heart. Whenever we succeed, we surrender to the inevitability of failure. When we learn to live, we surrender to the inevitability of death.
When we learn to swim, we surrender to the inevitability of the water. When we learn to live, we surrender to the inevitability of death.
As we learn to die, can we surrender to uncertainty, or is it possibility? That this dying might be akin to all the other little deaths and re-births we have experienced throughout life—when we discovered there was more to life than what we had previously experienced along the way? Can we consider that death is not a foe but a friend? I invite you to think, feel and prepare yourselves for your death with the same care and attention that loving parents prepare themselves for the birth of their beloved child so that, as an African proverb pronounces, “When our death finds us, may it find us alive”.
Contact Unity Hospice at 800-990-9249 to speak with a chaplain or visit our website here to learn more about how we can support you.
This blog post was shared by Nathan Meierbachtol, a Chaplain at Unity Hospice.
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