I walk with death and suffering and sadness and grief probably more than most … as a hospital chaplain, it’s a job hazard. Except it isn’t exactly a hazard. There is something so powerful, intimate, healing, hopeful about being with people on this holy ground. I’m not sure how to articulate it. I’m just grateful for those times.
And, it’s hard. And intense.
I have fewer of those times now as a manager of a spiritual care department. I miss being at the bedside.
But September brought several of those moments. And it’s different when the person dying is someone you know and care deeply for. I’m so, so grateful to have been present. I believe that my presence was helpful, and perhaps helped midwife people through death and grief.
I’m still sitting with those experiences, holding space, and doing my own grieving and healing. So I was happy to come across this powerful quote by Rainier Maria Rilke:
Consider whether great changes have not happened deep inside your being in times when you were sad. The only sadnesses that are unhealthy and dangerous are those we carry around in public in order to drown them out. Like illnesses that are treated superficially, they only recede for a while and then break out more severely. Untreated they gather strength inside us and become the rejected, lost, and unlived life that we may die of. If only we could see a little farther than our knowledge reaches and a little beyond the borders of our intuition, we might perhaps bear our sorrows more trustingly than we do our joys. For they are the moments when something new enters us, something unknown. Our feelings grow mute in shy embarrassment, they take a step back, a stillness arises, and the new thing, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it all and says nothing.
Borgeby gärd, Sweden, August 12, 1904 Letters to a Young Poet
That gives me something new to think about … “the moments when something new enters us.”
More beauty. More reflection. More writing to do.