I was sitting in the library preparing for class when the director of our Islamic chaplaincy program walked in with a worried look. He informed us that someone had requested a Muslim chaplain from our school to attend to a patient in the intensive care unit; and he was looking for volunteers.
I had never attended to a person in a hospital before as a chaplain– only as a son– and I did not know just how to proceed. However, I was interested in helping. I asked one of the fellow students who had more experience than I if he would go with me; and a third volunteered. Part of me was nervous, while I was scrolling through my mind and heart to find everything that I might say or do to help the family that called us to their aid.
It did not take us long to arrive, and along the way our more experienced student informed us of things that we might expect to see (and how to handle it). In my mind though, I could not help feeling the stress of being the “religious leader” that the family, in this time of need, is hoping will say something to remedy the situation. I started going through my mind the last time I was in the hospital visiting my father and prior to that visiting my mother who later passed away to cancer. All of these thoughts just added weight to my chest as I walked through the echoing halls.
We were heading to the intensive care unit and as we stepped out of the elevator I almost thought I would not make it. “What was I going to say to this family,” I was thinking. “What are the dua’s that the Prophet (alayhi salatu wa salam) would say? What is it that they expect me to do?”
I have now several months experience as a high school chaplain, and a few months experience volunteering as a chaplain at a near-maximum security prison, but never at a hospital. To me this has always been the most intimidating. I think I was most worried that the family would look to me to say something in this time of intense need and either have nothing to say, or worse, say the wrong thing. Being the “religious figure,” whether it be imam, or chaplain, or even speaker is not easy. One feels the weight of the religion and the needs of the community on their chest.
We arrived at the intensive care unit and they buzzed us in. “Chaplains to see ________.” The door unlocked and we entered to an area full of activity. Doctors walking swiftly to and from their patients. Men and women standing outside family members rooms, observing the doctors activities. When we arrived at the correct room the family had already left and their was a nurse inside performing some procedure. We decided to stay and wait.
I was kind of relieved because now we only had to speak to the patient and not their family. When the nurse was finished we were allowed in the room. The patient was lying there only partially conscious and we proceeded to read some Qur’an. I was too shy to look directly at the patient, but as soon as we walked in I felt such a desire to help them.
Standing next to the patient made me think about myself being in their position and what I would like me to do if I were them. I tried my best to concentrate on each prayer, and to reflect well on each verse of the Qur’an as it was recited. Before I left I also decided to say a special prayer, something that was so simple but in this case meant so much more.
I asked Allah to bless the patient with good in this life and the next, and I asked God to also bless me. And, for some reason, this simple prayer touched me in a way that it has never done so before. I realized just how comprehensive this prayer really is and how it is all that we ever can hope for in this life and the next.
So, if I ever see you again (patient). In this life, or the next. I prayed for you, but you reminded me that God is with me now and is the sole source of good in this life and the next. God bless you.
2 thoughts on “The Hospital Visit”
Salaam alaikum Ibrahim, this is your colleague in MH4M. I, too, struggle with what I’m going to say to the women in the jail I visit. I lived a life much different than their own. Authenticity is a problem for me. But I found that just expressing some of my own flaws and vulnerabilities gave me respect. Also, I am in a group where noone else is Muslim, so unlike you I struggle with not so much how to incorporate Islam but how to speak on a broader spiritual level that at the same time lets me be me. Great blog, I hope you will consider doing a guest article on my own site sometime.
Jazakum Allahu Khair for the support. It is a delicate balance sometimes that we all have to learn, especially those in religious leadership. More and more I recognize that experience is the real classroom and that my teachers (and by that I mean everyone that I learn from) just help me to contextualize it all properly.