After caring to dying people for over 17 years now, I have come to the conclusion that people are physically dying and awakening at the same time. We spend a great deal of our time defining ourselves in this work and making our way through it through the titles we obtain along the way such as minister, chaplain, counselor, etc… Much attention is placed on what we are. Such actions lead us away from the place we often will attempt to guide other’s to in their dying after long years of experience in the opposite.
I have been to seminary, seminars, conferences, and lectures upon lectures. Much of the talk is on creating modalities of care and techniques on soliciting a certain response from our patients and families who need to “feel” their grief and loss which they are in our care. It seems to me that people want to be who they are and not coerced into a pattern of thinking and feeling taught to counselors and ministers in order to create a certain response we are looking for inside our own selves.
This kind of care is really in essence training others to think and feel the way we have been trained to get others to in their grief. I believe we would get much future with people if we were to help the “remember who they are.” There are many ways to do this. Here are a few examples.
1. Find out what sacred events are the most meaningful to those you care for in grief.
Sacred Events are moments in time that call out one’s attention from the deepest essence of who they are. You will notice this by how one’s attention is undivided and engaged. You will see insight develop in the words reflected back on this experience in inspirational ways.
Sacred Events give vitality to living. You will see someone literally come alive within themselves and seem to never tire of what they are doing. Sacred Events fill the heart with joy and energy.
2. Find out if religious words matter to someone as they are dying or are sacred expressions more what they want to describe the world around them.
The language of the soul comes out is a person’s words. He or she will voice through words what is meaningful in their lives. This may be their church, or it can be their meditation group. A dying patient will give you clues as to what is important to them by how they describe the world around them and their lives in it.
3. Find out if a person is afraid of dying or afraid of the journey into pain.
Our perceptions of dying can go a long way to help us find a peaceful death or fear it all the way. What has been a dying patient’s experience of pain? Has this person been given reason to be confident in the medical field or fear it? Most fears lie in one’s perception of what he or she believes will happen. The unknown is a major factor in all of this as well. A person who once had control to some degree of their life is being taken away.
4. Find out what is a person’s “lived theology.”
A person’s lived theology is not what he or she has been taught to believe philosophically or religiously. A lived theology is a study of life through introspection. Such ponders leads people to a universal wisdom that has been pasted from generation to generation. They are truth’s obtained through experience and held to be sacred. A person can count on their lived theology because is has came through them and not from them.
The path into the sacred is a journey into who a person is. It is based upon sacred events, the stories shared because of these events, and it develops an inner confidence in what cannot die. In so doing, a lived theology is the result. The Bible talks about such a journey of faith as one “not made with human hands.” It is the path into healing because it is a journey into one’s deepest self.
When a dying patient remembers who they are, a sense of well-being swells up inside of them and radiates out as peace. These are the visits when a Chaplain feels as though he or she received much more out of the visit than they gave to it. It is the give and take of spiritual remembering to the point of no longer having to do anything which includes a Chaplain being a Chaplain and a dying patient being with dying because all roles fade into this kind of presence. It is the presence of Holiness. It is the presence of Eternal Life. It is the presence of peace.