Hospice Caregivers are daily in the presence of people who are in need of support and comfort, whether they are a patient whose illness is causing them physical suffering or emotional angst, or they are a family member in grief for the imminent or recent loss of someone they love.
In the previous two installments of our series on Spiritual Care in Difficult Times, Connecticut Hospice Pastoral Care Volunteers explored the role they play for people feeling the pain of fear, anger or hopelessness, or for those wishing to focus on their spiritual strength, regardless of whether there is a connection to any particular faith or not. They spoke of the profound spiritual connection that can happen when they sit in silence and solidarity with another human being,.
In this third part of the series, Allison H. Fresher, Pastoral Care Volunteer at Connecticut Hospice, shares a contemplative piece about accompanying those in hardship and pain, and reports of the joy, emotional healing and opening of hearts that can come from human togetherness.
Come walk with me. We will walk along the beach together. I know there is a storm brewing this day. After all, this is the rainy season. Big, puffy clouds, filled with rain, sit heavily over our heads, unmoving, almost black. Our feet shift in the sand. Today, the water does not glisten nor reflect the sun’s rays. Rather, we see signs of the coming storm.
The tide is going out, the Sound’s whitecapped waters flowing towards the larger sea. I notice a puffy, white, ocean bird floating by us. I let go of your hand, so I can point it out to you. How amazing, I think. It rides the current, not fighting the water’s forceful flow. It seems almost joyful or certainly, at peace with the water’s chaos.
You turn your head and look. Now, we are both staring in the same direction. We join our hands again, holding them tightly. Together, we stand there, captivated.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace**These lines excerpted from the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Neibuhr in the 1940's
In acceptance, we find peace. In times of hardship, joined together, unexpected gifts captivate us. Joy can arise from sorrow. We may smile with fond memories or feel strengthened through forgiveness, given or received. Through our pain, spirituality may be discovered or reborn. In times of trial, these outcomes can happen; they often do happen. Yet, there may also be doubt.
When I enter a patient’s room, I sometimes perceive a patient or family member erecting an invisible wall. Due to real world experiences, some may fear that I will attempt to preach over their doubt, convert them to a particular faith tradition, or proselytize. Others may believe that, since we walked different paths in life, we cannot relate. I have had many of these same feelings, and so, I empathize.
As pastoral care providers, we respect difference and acknowledge doubt.
Answers to the hardest questions are elusive; as humans, simply put, there are mysteries.
Healing takes time, and acceptance can be hard won.
At Connecticut Hospice, we experience with our patients, their families, and even staff members, the broad range of emotions arising from pain.
Sometimes, we are the students, and our wonderful patients are the teachers.
Other times, we help those in need find their way to healing, faith and hope.
Either way, the most perfect gift is exchanged.
Our hearts are opened.
We are here to take the walk with you, looking out at the stormy sea together. Know this; in our humanness, even while in the worst pain, there is a path to acceptance and joy. At Connecticut Hospice, it has been a privilege to witness this powerful journey, over and over again.
The sun does come out, and the light again shines.
Further resources suggested by Allison:
https://tinybuddha.com provides simple wisdom for complex lives.
https://www.beliefnet.com helps people find and walk a spiritual path that instills comfort, hope, strength and happiness.
http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org provides resources in support of contemplative prayer, bringing calm and stillness to a hectic world.
In addition, readers should be encouraged to reach-out to the Connecticut Hospice Pastoral Care Department for helpful prayer resources aligned to each faith background:– 203-315-7512.