February was a rather emotional month for me as the chaplain. I wasn’t able to visit the residents in the usual regular way due to the outbreak and later on because everyone in my home got sick. When I finally arrived almost at the end of the month I received an updated list of residents in which many names weren’t there anymore. As I went through the list, I had to sit down.
There, in the family lounge on Level 1, I kept a long minute of silence for all the lives promoted to the eternal peace. As I read the names, it came to my mind the last conversations I had with each one of them. I smiled as I remembered the many times we made each other smile, then I nodded my head as to say goodbye. I thanked the Lord for each individual person who was among us, and who certainly left their footprint on Earth. I know they did in my life.
With over a decade working in palliative care as a minister, this experience is not something new to me and I am sure neither it is to many of you. I often think if I will ever get used to it. My undoubtedly answer is: No, I should not. I also question myself if I should stop from deeply connecting with the residents to avoid an inevitable heartache. Of course I should not!
Yet, I know it is possible to give a word of encouragement without connecting with the individual. Indeed, it is possible to serve a person without connecting with them at all. I think this would be easy to do. I could save myself the harshness of seeing a resident no more. But that is not who I am.
Often after a profound conversation with the residents, I ask myself: Who am I to them? This question makes me think deep in the role and service I bring to the nursing home. There are many answers to this question but in them all, there is a common denominator. Just like everyone who works at At a nursing home, I am a here to give what I have to the residents. In my case, I bring words of faith in the hope I proclaim; for you, it may be your cleaning, or your feeding, or your administrating of medication, or your activities to entertain them. Giving care on any level raises human dignity sharing a beam of life to another person.
When I see you on your daily functions I see a community of Care Givers that interact to give the best we have for the wellbeing of those vulnerable and in need of our care. We give life in every smile, in every touch, in every conversation, in every action we do. We all who work here are givers of life to the residents until the moment of departure.
We are in this together. I personally have learned much from the nursing home staff; the sweetness of those who connect with residents and their families; the attention to detail of many; the tenderness at meal times; the compassion during the most vulnerable hours. I am encouraged by your work. I thank God for your lives. To be close and emotionally attached to a resident is very good; is for this reason that when we see them depart a weight of grief is upon us. People at large do not participate in this life-event as often as we do working here. So it is important that we are also givers of life among ourselves. Expressing our pain and giving closure to our care, so we may continue to provide care. As you know, I am available if you need to express your grief and receive a word of hope. Let us all be givers of life!