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I’m currently working as a Chaplain Intern at a local hospital as part of a Clinical Pastoral Education program.
This is my first of four credits, and my goal is to become a Certified Hospital Chaplain. The road to get here has been long and circuitous, but as I learn about the lives of other chaplains, I see that most of us have travelled a winding road to land in this place.
A life led by spirit is not a straight line.
It is a privilege to work with other chaplains, as well as with the sick, the dying, and their families. What I have learned in chaplaincy training eclipses what has taken me years to learn by other means. No book, lecture, or sermon can show what it means to live as precisely as attending to the death of another person. Only lived experience can truly transform a soul.
Here are three small but profound lessons I have learned so far from my work in chaplaincy:
1. Everyone’s death is special and unique and holy. All people are intrinsically equal, and in death, there is no denying this fact. Money, status, privilege, and ego account for exactly not-a-thing when each of us passes away.
2. Love is what most people are concerned about at the end. Did they love well? Did they reconcile with someone they hurt? Does God love them? These are the questions I have seen folks ponder in the long, slow hours of an illness-led death.
3. This last one serves as an answer to the questions: what is my purpose and why am I here? I am here to become a living embodiment of my soul. I am here to become the flesh-incarnate of my unique spirit. This is a process of discovering my essence, learning to trust it, and finally surrendering to its fullness. When I stray from my true nature, I suffer. When I act from my true nature, I am good.
Everyone must figure out their reason for being, and I am happy to have discovered mine.
Though it is natural and normal to fear one’s death, I now believe there is nothing to worry about. We are all released from this life with love and into love because we’re beloved by a Divine that is so vast and so good that it humbles even the proudest person to tears.
While we still have life in us, it is important to remember to love ourselves and others well. That is, after all, the whole point.