Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A (Tired) Chaplain's Lament...

I feel heavy.
I feel heavy under the weight of walking into hospital rooms and listening to stories of pain, loss, frustration, hopelessness, and despair.
I feel heavy under the weight of grief and anguish as it comes gushing out of family members who are anticipating the death of a loved one, or who have just watched their loved one die.
I feel heavy under the weight of standing at bedsides and staring down at hollowed eyes and gaunt faces and feeling the anguish of every… labored ….breath.
I feel heavy under the weight of shattered dreams, wounded hearts and broken promises that tear through the lives of those suffering with addictions. Over and over and over again.
I feel heavy as the last person peels away from the body, away from the room, and leaves me alone at the bedside praying for safe passage of a soul. Nurses return to their stations, doctors return to their charts, family members stagger down hallways and return to their homes, to get on with the horrific business of picking up the scattered pieces of their lives.

I feel heavy because as chaplains we are called to sit in this pain and anguish with those who are suffering through it. We are not there to ease their pain. We are not there to fix it.
We are not there to be “purveyors of hope” as professors in pastoral care classes gone by told us we as clergy are blessed to be.
We are weight bearers.
We lift up heavy-sashed windows and prop open triple-steel doors that people have shut tight to hold back their emotions, and we try not to get blown over as the pain comes rushing out.
We tremble under the strain of holding the weight of sobbing sons and daughters, parents and spouses as they fall into our arms and ask over and over again, “Why?”… “Why?” …“Why?”

We don’t have the answers.
We’re not expected to.
But still we stand on the front lines, inserting ourselves as a presence in the most painful moments of people’s lives. And we show up for this battle bearing no arms, except for the two that God gave us.

I feel heavy.
In the last 8 weeks I have learned how to stand in the pit with others, but I still have yet to learn how to climb back out.
Perhaps because as I stand in the pit I feel the weight of my own pain as well…
pushing me down, causing my knees to buckle, as I hold tight the windows and doors that are holding back the emotions I don’t want to leak out.

This chaplain needs a chaplain to be present in that pain.
I have only the two arms that God gave me.
And I can’t hold the world up, and myself, at the same time.

I feel heavy.
And I need someone to catch me, before the weight sends me crashing down. 

1 comment:

gingerpt said...

Maureen you are doing valuable work, but you must take care of yourself. First, the obvious - sleep, good nutrition, exercise. Second, seek out happiness at every opportunity - friends, family, funny movies, and in the hospital visit the areas of hope - the nursery and rehab. People getting better and sweet baby faces will give your day some balance. And don't be reluctant to let others hold you up when you need it. You are loved. Ginger