Thursday, July 31, 2014
My last day at hospice was Wednesday. The Friday before was a wonderful going-away party. Perfect for many reasons. It was for both me and our beloved boss Craig so not too much spotlight on me. We ate Mellow Mushroom pizza and home-made peach blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream. There was lots of laughter and fun to off set the sweet words and goodbyes.
I planned to be done with visits by Friday. To have the last three days of this week for paper work, last minute conversations and turning everything in. But of course things didn't go as planned. My last day I had three scheduled visits.
They couldn't have been more different. A Hungarian couple, he in a nursing home bed sleeping. She by his side every day, hungry for company. Their priest had been by that morning to give communion. But she wanted someone to hold her hand and listen to stories of the war, and how they'd met. In the last 6 months, I have so enjoyed her stories.
My second visit was to a tiny Asian Buddhist woman who lives alone in a log cabin in the woods forty-five minutes out of town. She wanted to talk about how faith carries a person through sickness into death. And how to know if you picked the right faith when it comes down to the end. Rich discussions interspersed with "where to get great chinese food" when she wanted a break from the seriousness. I could have visited her for many months to come and looked forward to each visit.
Last was my favorite. Larry, a North Carolinian Baptist. I started visiting him three years ago in his home. Now he lives in an assisted living center. Each week we talk about his wife, who passed away five years ago. We talk about Heaven and what he is longing for there. We talk about Nascar and Duck Dynasty, hamburgers and the beach. As it was my last Hospice day, I asked Larry's permission to visit occasionally as a friend. I know, it's my issue. I want to finish the journey I started with him. Larry's response was classic Larry. "You better."
As I drove home, I thought about how much I have loved the last 5 years of chaplaining. I love my team. I love a lot of my patients. I love exploring the county in my little blue car and designing my own schedule. I love all the prayers and spiritual conversations I get to be a part of. I felt a wave of fear and regret to be leaving all this.
Then I remembered what my supervisor Robin told us as we left chaplain school. "Each time you make a change, the adjustment gets easier. You take with you every single thing you've learned and apply it to the next job, the next team, the next patients."
T.S. Elliot had a different spin on it. “If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”
So here I come school. Ready for a new team of teachers, and a case load of vibrant, healthy students. Willing to embrace all the changes and challenges ahead. Ready to share all the wisdom I've learned in five years of chaplaining. And so ready to face all that I don't have a clue about.