I'm fairly resilient. I leave my "personals" at the door when I enter the office, and I put on my office attire when I begin my work as a chaplain. I journey with people as they go from devastating diagnosis to death - the patient, the family, other caregivers. My role as a chaplain is not about me, not at all. And so I give and give and give and try really hard to not take anything said personally - I'm the conduit - information goes in one end of the pipe, it's mulled around, and it goes out the other. And I try to leave my work at work (hospital and university).
I do worry. I pray for my patients (and my students). They are in my thoughts all the time. From the moment I wake to the moment I wake, the people I work "for," are on my mind. I think of how I can serve them, a better approach, a resolution, an option, a resource I can share.
And I give, as selflessly as I can - which keeps me from being overly involved - because I can't adopt a motherless patient, a spouseless man, a bitter woman, and that separation keeps me healthy.
I become close with a patient, typically those I've traveled with for a year or more. Seeing them on a monthly and sometimes biweekly basis forms bonds; knowing the patient's story, seeing them process their life, carrying them when they are sick, sad, tired, aching, worried, is a joy and something I will always treasure and hold dear.
And this past week has been major tough on me, and I am not as resilient as I thought I could be.
Five deaths in five days. All patients, and some are folks I knew prior to them becoming patients. And I ache for the pain they've been in, and I ache for the pain their families are in. And this week I cried, all one day, spent a sleepless night processing my own fears, and being a little more quiet, a little more reflective, and little more pensive than is typical for me.
I'm reminded of a line from a hymn, "Each life that touches ours for good," and I hope that these folks who have died have not died alone, nor have they left this life. Because a portion of them lives on in me, my colleagues - those people who had minimal interaction but are hugely impacted.
Until we meet again - Marilyn, Jana, John, Vicki, Patricia -