When a person and their loved ones decide that hospice care is the best path to take, the choice is not only medical, but also emotional and sometimes spiritual. The hospice care team seeks to offer care, support, guidance, and reflection in all of these areas. As a chaplain with Casa de la Luz Hospice, I try to create space for meaningful conversations among families where love and faith can be affirmed, forgiveness offered, and truth shared.
There is not one right way to face death; each person must find their own path. For some folks, a religion or faith tradition has brought them meaning and purpose during their lifetime. This faith can bring comfort and can be a vehicle to enter into a deeper spiritual relationship with the divine. A chaplain seeks to help people rely upon the ground of being that will anchor them as they let go of the life they have known and the relationships that define us. For other people, religion has not been important in their expressions of faith, yet they understand themselves to be deeply spiritual beings. Often, visits from a hospice chaplain in these situations can help people reflect upon their beliefs, and articulate their connections to life that is greater than what we know as individuals. While each path we follow is deeply personal, it does not have to be travelled alone. Often, allowing others to accompany us on this journey can bring wholeness and healing in ways not imagined.
I have been blessed to visit patients and their families even when they define themselves as atheist and not spiritual. As a hospice chaplain, I do not have an agenda for my patients.
When I am invited to visit a hospice patient, the most important gift I can give her or him is that of listening. I listen deeply to each person and seek to help him or her speak of those people, moments, relationships, values, and work that have given their lives meaning and purpose. It is also vital to name the lessons that have been learned and the legacy that will remain with those we have touched, even after we die.
As we draw nearer to end of life, our bodies and energy diminish. Yet, at the same time our emotional and spiritual life can broaden and become richer. The hospice chaplain is a person who can help us open to these possibilities and prepare to let go of the life we have known and loved.