It’s a job that most would not think of, but a very important one. Being a hospice spiritual care advisor brings that individual into the final portion of another person’s journey here on Earth.
Their job is to meet the patient where they are, to help them along.
“We aren’t there to become evangelists, or to convert people. We are there to support them wherever they are at,” says Ron White, Hospice of Michigan.
If a person has a pastor or spiritual leader, the hospice chaplain makes sure connections are made and moves to the side. But for many reasons, some are not affiliated. Maybe their illness has gotten in the way, or they’ve moved away to be closer to caring family. And Ron says spiritual care, at this point, is wider than religion.
“It’s more on how you are connected to, not only what you conceive as your religious base, but your family and your world,” explains Ron.
And so he meets with the patient and even the family. Ron is there to listen, and he says sometimes they open up in ways they might never have before. The stories, the joy and the sorrow. To support them, to relieve them of heavy burdens.
“To sit with them, be with them and to help them to know whatever they are feeling at that moment is acceptable. It’s OK to be angry, it’s OK to be sad. But it’s OK to be happy too,” says Ron.
I believe that is the whole idea of hospice, to celebrate a life and the continuation of the journey.
“Lots of times I feel pretty guilty, because I feel like I get so much more from people than I can give,” says Ron.
We are spiritual beings on an earthy journey, and hospice chaplains like Ron say they are given a great opportunity.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of that final few steps, hopefully making it a little better, more meaningful for the person and their family.”