by Chaplain Resident, Brigette Kemink
Many people go to the hospital because it can offer healing in times of suffering and illness. It is in the suffering and illness that we need to know we are not alone. Where others may find it difficult to be, Chaplains, like me, walk right into it. We are not called upon for our skills in healing – we are not doctors or nurses – we are called to bring companionship through life’s moments, we attend more difficult moments than celebrations. We are the person in the room who will stay when the tears fall, the anger is voiced, and the grief is overwhelming. We are not there to give a diagnosis or to prescribe a treatment, frankly, we are not there to “fix” anything. No, we are there to be a companion. In our companionship to others, we intend to bring a loving, compassionate presence, one inspired by the Divine, Higher Power, God, Lord, Christ.
At times like this when our suffering is compounded by a pandemic, racial injustice, and job loss, it can be harder to see a loving God, but many of us still do. A loving Higher Power inspires us to give others respect, grace, and understanding. Some of us don’t think of the Divine as the cause of bad things, but like the calm that follows a storm. The driving force behind the clean-up crew with acts of kindness and goodwill. For me, I experience God as the comforting touch of a gentle hug. God is a curious presence interested in knowing what makes me smile, laugh, and brings me joy. God is a compassionate voice of understanding when in times of stress. God is a hand that reaches down to pick me up when I fall or stumble. God is a listening ear when I have things to share, stuff to complain about, situations that make me angry, and confusion that leaves me asking “why?”
Lately, we have more confusion and questions than anything else. We have more prayers and requests than answers. And yet, as much as I struggle with not knowing what is going to happen next and try to deal with my own feelings of being unsettled or confused, I am more grateful for my faith because I’m not sure where I’d be without it. Anytime I have experienced loss, grief, or hardship – which is coming in abundance – I go back to the basics of my faith. I pray a lot, almost all the time. Sometimes the only prayers I can get out are “Help me, Lord” or “You know what I need” or “You know what they need.” Experience has taught me that while I cannot see the reason for my experiences while I am in them, that at some point in the future, I will be able to make meaning out of them. Isn’t that what we want? We want to be able to make meaning of the suffering we experience. We reject the idea that we are here to experience pain – that would not be loving. Instead, we want to believe we go through the pain for something beneficial in the future. We will learn something. I believe we are already learning things about ourselves, our friends, our family, and our world. We are learning who we were, who we are, and who we aspire to be. If we walk through the pain, the fire, we can hope that the experience will inspire us to move through it, to rise from the ashes, like a Phoenix, and become better.
And so, until that time, I and others like me, we will keep doing what we do. We will keep walking into suffering and be a companion. We will go to the practices that sustain us because we know we are not alone and we want all those who we meet to the feel the same way – You are not alone. We are here. I am here. And we will walk with you.