Stories of Hope and Healing

Please note: Patient’s names have been changed to respect their privacy.

There are many stories of hope and healing that we encounter everyday as hospital Chaplains. One in particular happened just recently. It may not be your usual story of hope, but is one that shows another, perhaps unfamiliar, side of chaplaincy.

I was called to the ICU and told that the condition of Ruth (74 years old) was declining quickly. Ruth had been on life support for two weeks and she had not made any progress toward healing. In fact many of Ruth’s organs were beginning to fail her. After doctors from multiple disciplines examined her, they conferred and agreed that everything that could be done for Ruth had been tried. In situations like this the family is told of the patient’s condition. But what made this case different was the fact there were no family or friends that could be found for Ruth. Even after weeks of due diligence, the Care Management Team was unable to find them. From all that we could ascertain, Ruth was alone in this world.

As I approached Ruth’s bedside, I gently took hold of her hand and began talking to her. I let her know who I was and reassured her that she was not alone. I shared a short prayer with her and I continued to talk with her. Ruth was unconscious and had been from many days. Yet we are often told that hearing is the last one of our senses to leave us, so I wanted Ruth to hear that someone was with her. I held her hand, as her life support was removed, the monitors were turned off and the lights were dimmed. Ruth’s nurse stood on the other side of the bed and for the next 15 minutes we both reassured Ruth that it was ok, she was not alone. We would stay with her as long as she needed. As Ruth finally drew in her last breath, I noticed a small tear form in the corner of her eye and then make its way down her cheek. In that sacred moment I recognized that we were standing on holy ground, and we knew that Ruth would be alright.

Mother Theresa once said, “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.” For many professional chaplains, our actions may not seem big to the outside world. But I have learned not to overlook those ordinary everyday small acts. Because it is in those acts of compassion we share God’s love in a very real way with patients and in the end we are blessed as we become witnesses of how Hope is renewed through God’s love.

Fairview Hospital
Rev. Tricia L. Gilbert
Staff Chaplain

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