A Special Perspective on the End of Life
By Bruce McNeely, Chaplain, BCC
When Spirituality Becomes a Matter of Increased Importance
I never cease to be amazed at how human beings
can determine their own solutions to lifelong issues if…
I have learned a great deal about the spiritual dimensions of death and dying in my ten years as a chaplain for Genesis Hospice. I have learned that spirituality becomes a matter of increased importance for the one who is dying, even when matters of the spirit have not always been a major concern for the person during earlier seasons of life.
By engaging in spiritual beliefs and practices, the individual is able to find assurance that they are ready to “meet their Maker,” reconcile with family members with whom they have been estranged, complete matters of unfinished business, experience relief from anxiety or a host of other outcomes that make dying with dignity and serenity possible.
This does not happen without some intentionality. My role as a hospice chaplain is to create a sacred space where individuals are free to talk honestly; free to cry and free to reflect in the presence of One who will listen without casting judgment. I never cease to be amazed at how human beings can determine their own solutions to lifelong issues if they are just given the freedom to talk and process their thoughts with someone who is willing to care. When they cannot find their own solutions, they are then invited to seek the guidance and direction of a Higher Power--in an attitude of trust until spiritual well-being is achieved.
Spiritual Encounters Ease the Transition from Life to Death
Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings
when the dawn is still dark – Rabindranath Tagore.
Many at the end of life are no longer able to converse, yet this does not prevent them from having spiritual encounters that ease the transition from life to death. I may employ as a chaplain such interventions as reading sacred writings from that individual's particular religious tradition, singing familiar songs that have an incredible ability to transport the individual to a peaceful place, make arrangements for sacraments for that individual, or simply provide the ministry of presence and touch.
My work is not confined to the dying individual. I take seriously my role of being a spiritual caregiver for the patient’s family. The journey of grief begins long before the actual death and caregiving can be very exhausting physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the family. My work with families may involve encouraging them to share feelings, helping them to practice self-care, encouraging them to maintain appropriate boundaries, educating them on appropriate ways to relate to a dying loved one, or inviting them, if they are comfortable, to give their blessing to their loved one to “let go” and die.
Spiritual Care Is My Honor, Privilege and Sacred Calling
You are not alone
End of life spiritual care is my honor and my privilege. I cannot imagine a more special, sacred calling. For those who find themselves or a loved one on this end of life journey, know that spiritual compassionate care is there to support you, either through your own clergy or through the professional chaplains at Genesis Hospice who specialize in the spiritual care for patients and their families experiencing that end of life reality. You are not alone.