Tuesday, January 25, 2011

That'll leave a mark

I have come off leave and have returned to a slightly familiar, though new too, experience.

I don't remember where I first heard the idea that babies and those close to dying were closer to the Spirit of God than others.  However, I think that I probably shrugged off the idea, probably because I had one of those "my theology is intellectually superior to yours" moments.

My current life situation has provided me a palpable plane of proving that idea.  I realized today that I was ignoring lines of communication though and I'm not sure why.

I have struggled lately with my line of work, hospice chaplaincy.  The energy that is required to make a visit is both a lot harder to muster up and harder to maintain.  The energy required to maintain relationship with God has also been difficult. 

Yesterday, I saw yet one more poor soul, about 70 years old, neither breathing or eating on his own.  And then I saw his roommate, about 30 years old, in the same condition.  I cannot see one more person like this.  I can't do this anymore.  God, let me pray to you--but what words can I use?  I have none.  I have no concentration, no course of connectivity. 

I left, hands stuffed in my pockets, ashamed of my tears.  I had the overwhelming feeling that I was no longer going to be able to do that which I felt called to do.  I wanted to be able to reach out and touch the man--to somehow communicate to him that I was there for him, that I wanted to help bridge the gap between human and divine and let him know that he was loved by both.  But I could not.  I was frozen and unable.

Today, I set out again, curious as to whether the long drive into the Bayou would help with my chaplain's-block.  First visit was better though I felt like my words were garbled and jumbled and late-arriving. 

Next visit, breath in.

She grabbed my hands before I offered the cowards.  Her nails dug into my skin and I was certain a stream of blood was going to run down into my gray sleeve.  Her legally-blind eyes looked deeply into mine, "Aren't you a sweet thing," she said without consideration.  Her affection stung and cut deeper than her nails. 

We talked of dying and heaven and peace.  She was clear, but repetitive.  And then, she looked again at me and spoke:  "You're going to make it.  There will be rough waters and smooth waters, but God will always be with you."

Really?  Had God granted me the gift of turning tables again?  Who was the chaplain and who was the patient?  Who was the blind one and who could see perfectly? 

My tears echoed hers, though I'm not sure why she was crying.

As quickly as her clarity came, it went, and we revisited the memories of her husband, dog, and children.

I, the wandering sheep, have been missing some calls.  Today, I was able to answer.  Tonight, I will peer into my child's eyes and see what messages she might have for me.

God, let me discover the message behind this current scatterdness and struggle.  Push my hands toward the hurt and the hurting and then let me retrieve them with the feeling that they are washed and clean.  Lend me the grace to keep course on your call and the awakening every time I replace your voice with another's.  Yours is the one I wish to hear.