Tree of life and light
family, friends, gather round
considered with utmost care
because we react to change
removing us from routine
Hard lesson for us
Compassion means being still
waiting for something
Would you take the time
engaging in discussion
If we had an hour
Who am I if not a chaplain? Where will I work? How does it happen that a life changes so quickly? How can I not know the answer to that question after spending countless hours in the ER with families devastated by losses costly than mine? I must learn to be my own chaplain.
I’ve learned and am still learning that when something I value is lost, I often gain in other ways. If I am open to it, there is much to learn in loss. I find a resist it, if the loss is so painful that I cannot bear to face it. I find I miss out on framing the loss and incorporating it into my life. Sometimes I can do this, sometimes I cannot face it and must wait, like a player who has been sidelined, until at least some of the injury heals so that I can face what is lost and welcome the journey of finding what awaits. Being a creature of habit, I’m not so fond of new and changing things. Being a student of life, I realize that things change every day. I hope I’m getting better at incorporating changes, but sometimes, just like my walking habit, it is two steps forward and one step back…
I watch my dogs and find that my understanding of walking needs their understanding, too. It is time for me to walk in a new way. Perhaps I will write or go back to school and enhance my chaplaincy skills with a counseling degree. Maybe a new avenue in which to use my chaplaincy will appear. Perhaps I’ll learn to make time for those things that are mine and not stay too busy with the lives of others, putting them too much in place
of my own. I will never stop walking with a purpose. But my choice now lies in
the knowledge that I must learn to walk with purpose and yet make time to find the purposes hidden from me. There is much to explore under the leaves and in the dirt. My job right now is to learn this new path and to befriend it. I’m grateful to have my animal guides to remind me of the way. As one of my nameless acquaintances drives by, I notice my little dog in his dance of scratching and sniffing. He moves with grace as both acts
merge into his little routine. I pray that one day I may do the same.
In your soulful eyes
I see love reflected back
Research affirms truth
Found badly hurt cat
Held it taking its last breath
took her to bury
Laid to rest in our backyard
No creature should die alone
By the time I became the first ever board certified chaplain in my healthcare system, no seminary, no college, no ecclesiastical endorsement ( a statement from the ordaining denomination), and only one unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) or some church experience was required to become a chaplain in our system. My departmental manager’s lack of credentials had become departmental standards. I had worked to become an asset, in a system where negative consequences were now the rule for positive achievement. Trusted friends responded with sadness, compassion and understanding when I told them it was time to go.
I spend my days in relief and in grief. Relief from the stress of departmental policies, grief in this seemingly unfathomable outcome. It is as if someone is throwing a switch I seem to have no control over. Relief at not having to wonder whether I’ll trigger an office land mine for accomplishments I’ve worked for. Grief over the loss of work friends. Relief at being able to express myself without fear of reprisal. Grief over the loss of working with a staff chaplain who could finish my sentences. Relief that I have time to tend to the stuff piling up at home. Grief over reluctantly giving up work that I love.
It is easier to surround oneself with the burdens of others. This is particularly true in hospital ministry where a loss of a limb or an impending death is right in front of you. There is less time to think of one’s own concerns when caregiving to another. There was comfort in being too busy and wishing for time to do what I want. Now I have time; Where did all those things I want to do go? I am on a new path and I don’t know the way. My steps are uncertain. I don’t know this path. The road signs seem to have vanished. Who am I, if not a chaplain?
Although not my home until 12 years past twelve years old, this home holds much of my heart. When I walked into it, I knew we were supposed to live there. There have been only two times in my life when I’ve felt that strong sense of pull towards a place. Didn’t think much about logistics. Didn’t know if we could even afford it. We were not sure we would even get a chance to see it as the realtor who listed it had a contingency on it for a family member. She did not want it shown. It was an old farm house built in the 19th century. Bull’s eye molding, painted white, around all the entryways to each room. There were two rooms that were my home within this home. A small den off the dining room. Yes, it did have 1970’s inspired olive green shag carpeting. But what I loved most about it was the coziness of this 8 by 10 foot room. The exterior wall had built in bookshelves, wall to wall. I thought it was palatial. I could not believe we were actually able to buy it. It was ours!
The next room I loved was the kitchen. Another built in, this was the original cupboard to the farmhouse kitchen. Beautiful glass doors to the upper part of the cupboard. An Old Flour Bin, that hinged and was lined so that 25 pounds or so of flour could be stored there. A side porch off the kitchen, where a raccoon once attacked the screen on a big back window and decided to stroll on in and check things out.
Still newly wed, we sustained the loss of my husband’s sister in the shelter of that sturdy old house. We brought our babies home to that house and watched them each sit up, say their first words, and take their first franken-like steps in that space.
When we no longer fit in it, toys and trappings of young children crowding that space we decided to find bigger quarters. A creature who loves the safety and comforts of home, I struggled, and could barely say goodbye to it.
I find myself, all these years later, in the safety and comfort of the second space I longed to make my home. Every days it is a blessing to look out the window and to give thanks for this space. The space that our children have now all left, but that belongs to us and that I hope is a welcome harbor to them and their families when they visit.
I’m grateful for the ability to write this. It has afforded me the opportunity to properly giving thanks for that old home. A family was created there. I became a mother there. Some of my happiest memories took place there. It is forever a part of my heart.
Each creature unique
we grow and bloom differently
in our time and place
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