Welcome our newest contributor to the FaithLab blog. Stephanie is a hospice chaplain and and a new mom. It is out of these experiences that she often writes.
My husband and I, both people who generally think more than we say, have somehow created a chatterbox. Baby Girl combines varying phonetic sounds with varying facial expressions and varying volumes. She often gets her hands involved too. The conversation tone can change quickly though–she chewed out her stuffed monkey the other day though we were not privy to his sudden fault.
She will look at you intently, stretching her arm out, and orate better than any TV evangelist. That little arm reaches high, but thanks to some creative design, only baby-arm high and thank goodness, there’s no telling what she would reach if her arms were the same proportions as an adult’s arms.
Sometimes, I think that I know just exactly what she is saying, and then other times, I have no idea. I think she thinks the same thing of me. When she recognizes a word or a song, a broad smile appears, even a laugh. Her body lights up and I’m sure that mine does too–we have expanded our points of connection. She laughs when I say “no.” I hope this is not a sign of things to come.
One of my new patients is not old, at any rate, too young to be in his medical state. He is unable to talk loudly and some days cannot push out a whisper. I knew this going into our first visit, but still felt completely inadequate during our interaction.
I gave my name and explained my role. I don’t always, but did ask this time if I might pray for him. He eyes looked into mine and he nodded, “yes.” I prayed. I then asked if he needed anything else. He began to mouth words, and I tried to focus all my listening ability to his whisper. I couldn’t understand. Trying to focus even harder, with my eyes on his lips, we tried again. Still nothing. I began looking around the room. “Water?” No. “Do you want your head up?” No. “TV off? Up louder?” No. Around the room I went, and could not find the right object. Finally, I looked at the windowsill. An open Bible lay there, in plain view. In a chaplain’s, this chaplain’s, plain view.
“The Bible?” Yes. Relieved for a “yes,” but annoyed at myself, I brought it to him. “Do you want me to read to you?” He nodded. It was open to Psalm 23 and I asked if he wanted to hear that passage. He nodded again. My eyes already cloudy, I started, “The Lord is my shepherd…” I had to stop in the middle of “He restoreth my soul,” because my tears were loudly interrupting my speech. A deep breath and apology later, I continued through then end.
What beautiful poetry, what perfect truth. Thou art with this man.
Sometimes, when I am gifted to do the holiest parts of my job, the emotion of it all catches up with me. In that scene, the communication points were three–God, patient, chaplain. This man lay there, in a state which tests my theology, and wanted me to act out my role; he wanted me to bring God closer to his side. What else does that bring but tears?
I hope, and I envision it as so, that God lights up and is filled with joy when such points are established. I believe that human connection, especially when it comes from love, is a gift, but a gift largely ignored until it is hard to attain.
My prayer for my patients is that they find a place of peace, in the green grass or beside the still waters. Last night, as I rocked my baby to sleep, I thought through what I wanted my prayer for her to be. The prayer is the same–I want her to have peace. If she finds herself in a place of unrest, I want her to be led by the shepherd back to that place of sanctity and quiet sanctuary. Thou art with her.
Thou art with me, bless my soul. Amen.
Read more from Stephanie at her blog.