Friday, November 23, 2007

Gosh, I am a rotten blogger

The last several weeks have been really challenging with some co-worker/political issues; I am feeling less like a person about to lose her job, which is reassuring, but have been doing a lot of thinking about what chaplaincy is for me, and about how my own personality and also my own training and particular religious bent defines chaplaincy. The two staff chaplains at my location (I am on-call) have very different spiritualities from me and approach the job with a very different mind-set, and that will continue to be challenging I think. More posts about this later; today I want to offer something a bit light.

I am a hospice chaplain, and at work I see individuals and families at very vulnerable, painful, dark moments. One way I keep from being overwhelmed is to find humor in certain situations, and surprisingly enough even in death humor is not in short supply.

The other night I was waiting for a mortuary to come and remove a body; the family of the deceased had elected to remain until that happened. We were all exhausted, and it was taking FOREVER. Finally, FINALLY the buzzer rang telling me to let in the attendant and the long skinny gurney (I have learned that these go by the benign euphemism "cot"). The attendant, a young, pleasant fellow, was embarrassed at having taken so long. The reason? His dispatcher had gotten things mixed up and sent him to a nearby hospital. Where he had pushed his "cot" earnestly from floor to floor, nurse's station to nurse's station, looking for the deceased. And where I can imagine weary charge nurses looking up and feeling a millisecond of fleeting horror--did I miss a death? How could I have missed a death??? before realizing it was the mortuary attendant who was confused. At 3 AM I can imagine our young attendant just wishing for a body, any body, so he could pick it up and go about his business. After touring the entire hospital and finding no bodies at all, let alone the one he'd been called out for, he called the dispatchers back and got it sorted.

Another day, another body--I let the mortuary attendant in, signed the relevant bits of paperwork, and escorted him to the room. While we were walking, we made idle conversation. He said he couldn't wait for snow. I thought he was being sarcastic, but no. I said I liked snow best if I didn't have to drive in it. Said he, "I drive at night, and when I'm driving the road is MINE, there's no one else out so it doesn't matter if I'm going straight ahead or sideways!!!" As I looked at him in horror, he said, "One time I was driving in a blizzard so bad the visibility was zero. I just used my GPS to tell me whether I was on the road or not. THAT was FUN!" Think about THAT if your loved one dies in a snowstorm. Your loved one's last ride might be a real adventure. And if you're driving in a snowstorm, and a nondescript van goes sliding past you sideways with a man grinning maniacally at the wheel? He might have a Very Quiet passenger or two in the back.


Blogger PB said...

Terri, I am a pastor with local ordination and in my first unit of CPE. You sound tired, but not in the wrong pew. Having people not like us in ultimately rewarding if they honor God. How do your other cohorts differ from you in approach? If nothing else, CPE makes for compelling writing

2:24 PM  
Blogger PB said...

Sorry on the last comment, PB stands for Pastor Bob, my name is Bob

2:25 PM  
Blogger terri c said...

Actually, I find chaplaincy to be a stretch but also pure joy, feeling that I am in the place where I am meant to be at this time, with much learning afoot. Have had one unit of CPE. Neither of the two staff chaplains is Christian, and it makes a difference not because one spiritual tradition holds more truth or value than another but because not all traditions have the notion of pastoral care; in some, the role of religious leader is a teaching role or a healing role that requires a definite "problem" to be addressed by a definite "action." My ministry is one more of connection and relationality and companioning, with one of my assumptions being that spiritual distress may be revealed after some trust is established rather than being presented on first glance. If that helps.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Mary Beth said...

Wow, Terri. I have no experience of chaplaincy (except being on the receiving end). But here in the buckle of the Bible belt, the idea of only one in three hospice chaplains being Christian is VERY STRANGE!!

not bad. Just strange!

8:54 AM  

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