Lessons of Illness and Death

man-sitting-with-older-woman-in-hospital-bed-holding-her-hand

by William Selig

WS CU cropIn my capacity as chaplain in an inner-city hospital, I deal with end-of-life situations as frequently as two or three times a day. My faith as a Unificationist accepts death as normal and part of God’s plan. I know that if God is in our life, then He must also be in our death, and this gives me a sense of comfort and the strength to offer spiritual support to the patient, family and staff.

When I enter the room and see the patient lying on the bed, the family is generally gathered around or standing outside in the hallway or hurriedly on their way to the hospital. The air is thick with emotion. My heart never fails to be moved by the sincerity and tears. I am deeply touched by the weeping and what I call “quiet tears” where I know the family’s feelings are building up inside and ready to overflow.

I try to provide a compassionate presence even if the patient is unresponsive. I always assume their spirit self or inner being is awake and appreciative of companionship.

When a person knows that death is imminent, what happens next really depends on their values and beliefs. Faith and spirituality often become very important even if he or she hasn’t set foot in a house of worship for years. Many appreciate hearing sacred words and prayer. Most often people request Psalm 23. It is known to everyone and provides a comfortable assurance that Heavenly Parent is in the room.

Besides the patient, I offer spiritual support to the family and loved ones through companionship, prayers, and a listening heart. Essentially the chaplain is a reminder that life has a spiritual dimension. I try to help them deal with the situation and find some sense of spiritual peace.

I’m always been inspired by how God opens the hearts of the families. Although I am a total stranger, I am immediately welcomed into the center of an emotionally intimate situation, certainly not as an individual, but rather as what the chaplain represents. The family wants to feel the presence of God. They want the assurance that God is in charge and that he’s there, even when things aren’t going according to their own wishes or expected plan.

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