Posts Tagged 'hospital chaplain'

Finishing a Dream

One year ago today, I arrived at one of the best jobs I ever had, hospital chaplain, swiped my badge, facilitated a spirituality group on the psychiatric floor, laughed with my colleagues over lunch and then swiped out and walked away forever.

Not a decision I took lightly.

My desire to become a hospital chaplain started when I was 26 and completed when I was 56. A thirty year wait for a dream. You might have some of those too.

I absolutely loved it. All my hopes for how God might use me in this role became true. At the end of the shift though, it always seemed like I was the one who benefited the most. Like the principle we have all seen but can’t quite figure out, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I did receive a lot though…Deeper understanding of God, knowledge of myself, a few shifts in theology, lifetime friends.

When I started, ten years seemed like the right about of time to fully invest in this profession. I never saw it as “the rest of my life” kind of thing like I do writing but I wanted to give it a good decade. Truthfully, I wasn’t even counting until the last six months.

Almost like an apparition, the years flashed in front of me and I realized it was almost ten. During that time, two more of our children married, my grandchild count went from 1 to 9.  I wrote two books. My husband started his PhD program. I started leading small group personal retreats. Tom’s mom died, mine had a stroke. And thousands more things.

I decided to honor the sense of time commitment I felt at the beginning and began to step down. Getting a contract for a third book was an added push.

Sometimes it is the right move to leave the party while it is still going strong and you’re having the time of your life. You wonder what you might have missed but the memory of that party will be forever sweet.

Do I miss it? Absolutely! Do I have any regrets? None at all.

I’m still a chaplain though, of my everyday life. If you walk around with a little hope and encouragement in your pocket to give away, you are too.

As I was leaving the official role, my youngest brother, Mark, was coming on board as a hospital chaplain, also at a “later age.” Two of my seven first cousins are also chaplains. Must be in the genes somewhere!

Do you have a dream? Reach for it. Is it over? Lay it down so you can pick up the next one.

Hope for the best,


When the Patient becomes the Chaplain

The page came in early in my shift, please stop by and see the patient in room xx. I added the name to the long list for the day and wondered how urgent the request was.  In the hospitals I serve, most of them qualify for ASAP.

While doing rounds in this patient’s neighborhood, I popped in. Instead of a languishing patient in a bed, I was greeted by a robust looking guy in a chair, except for all the tubing attached to his body. He smiled and warmly greeted me and gave me the cliff notes version of his medical demise. I cringed inwardly and hoped it didn’t show on my face.

The patient, on the other hand, kept smiling while he filled me in on his job status (none) and a few other stressors; at least they would be for me. I’ve see patients and friends (and sometimes me) cave under a small percentage of what was on this guy’s plate.

Not him. “It’s only a couple of months of my life, I’ll get back out there” referring to the length of this medical interruption. “I’m not dying” he gently reminded me, “I’ve got a great family,” and then added “I have a lot to be thankful for.”

I’m still wondering why he asked for a visit but he answered that next. “Can you say a prayer for me chaplain? I’ve given this whole thing to God and I’m all right with him but thought someone like you saying a prayer would be nice.”

I did say a prayer as requested but I think the page was for me not him.

How many of my “crisis of the day” moments do I allow to cross the boundaries of the brackets they belong in? Most dire-to-us events fall under “it’s only a few days/weeks/months” but we/I allow them drain so much energy from the rest of life for a long time after.

Thanks for the reminder, patient. I wish he could have donned the pager and gone out to see some of the other members of my list that day.

I’m glad he got to be my chaplain.

Hope for the best,




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