There is so much I wish I could share about my experiences working in a hospital. I have held the hand of a dying man, had existential discussions with a terminally-ill agnostic, have witnessed smudging ceremonies, heard family members share the incredible and humorous memories of loved ones they’ve lost, have had warm conversations about the value of faith with Christian patients so surprised but happy to see a Muslim visiting them at their bedside, and so many other moving experiences that remain very close to my heart.
When the subject of my working as a hospital chaplain comes up in conversation with others, it is commonly met with a look of surprise and my being asked how I could do something “so difficult.” It is not always easy for me to explain. I don’t see myself as “stronger than others.” Rather, I find strength in the sacredness and vulnerability of the moment.
Being with someone while they (or you) are emotionally vulnerable appears to have become increasingly rare in our lives; leading to fewer people experiencing them (or, at least, experiencing them less frequently). Instead, vulnerable moments have been replaced by online rants to everybody but nobody at all. Social media has been preventing us from social-izing and helping us to hide our true faces behind our latest selfie. It is as if our hearts are becoming pixelated in our increasingly virtual world.
For sure it is not easy to cope with our own mortality, grief, loss, or a sudden and unexpected illness. These thoughts and experiences challenge a very core but unfounded belief that many of us share and base our day-to-day lives on: the belief that we will be given enough time in life to do all that we hope to.
However, our time in this world (including our youth, health, and time with loved ones) is all limited. In fact, having to face the reality of our own mortality may very well be the most significant and unifying quality that we all share; but too often we refuse to talk about it.
While working as a hospital chaplain I have been privy to many vulnerable moments; each one of which is truly a rare treasure. I have come to see that it takes great strength to be vulnerable with others. In contrast, the online profiles we often create merely mask a more dynamic human being with faults, pain, humour and love.
Facebook posts and comments are but fool’s gold, it is in the sacredness of a moment where I seek that which truly enriches my life.
So, I remind myself to be vulnerable with those who I love and to all of those who have allowed me to be a part of your moments in 2016 and prior: thank you for the honour.