Uncategorized

A Pastoral Care Glimpse

Yesterday, we had a new patient who I could not get to see easily as I was already scheduled to see patients in a whole different part of our large geographic territory.  She was the matriarch of a very large Cape Verdian family and was 99 years old.  The family had requested Sacrament of the Sick (SOS) for the patient as they were devout Catholics – and so was the patient. I called her daughter who was the Health Care Proxy and offered to set up (SOS) and visit today, the next day, and in the morning to provide presence and comfort.  The daughter was grateful for my assistance and had agreed to the plan.

I arrived today after my morning meeting at ten to find several crying family members leaving the floor.  I went to the the RN and stated, “She died, didn’t she.”  She affirmed my conclusion.  “Did the priest come?”  “No.”  I was so disappointed and surprised as this particular priest is very reliable.  I went to the patient’s room to find many more family members still present – probably 15 to 20.  I found my way to her daughter and introduced myself.  She graciously brought me to  the deceased patient in the hospital bed.  She began telling stories about what a great mom her mother was – a matriarch of the family who never had conflicts with anyone.  “In all her life, I only remember an issue she had with one person.  She was a saint.”  

Meanwhile, family members continued to cry and honor their lost matriarch.  The family presence was intergenerational.  I was impressed by the presence of many young people, along with the elders.  I affirmed the family for their great presence with the patient and let them know that what they just accomplished was hard work….but that they had done a good job sending her on her way.  They had been present for her.  I said to the daughter, “what can I do to be spiritually supportive?”  “Pray,” she said.  “Just pray.”  So, I placed my hand on her mother’s forehead, bowed my head, and gave thanks for her life and love. I prayed for her comfort and peace.  I asked God to hold her in his Everlasting Arms and bring her home.  I asked for comfort to the loving and grieving family.

The daughter expressed gratitude and continued to tell stories of her mother.  Family had gathered more when I was praying.  Funeral plans began to be discussed.  It was clear this was a very spiritual family.  I was feeling badly that no priest had come to bless this beautiful soul.  So I offered a blessing.  “I have water blessed by a priest in Ireland with me.  I can give your mom a blessing, if that would be helpful.”  The family was pleased about this idea.  “Yes,” was the answer.  More gathered around the bedside and I invited the family to participate.  I asked them to place their hands somewhere on the their loved one’s body.  I instructed them that together, we would recite the Lord’s Prayer.  After that, I would make several blessing statements.  After each statement, I invited them to affirm with “Amen.”  I then stated I would close with a blessing with the holy water placed on the loved one’s forehead and give the her a benediction to send her home.  Then we all did just that.

The family continued to cry but they were at peace.  I let them know about our bereavement services and asked if there was anything else I could do for them.  They stated all was well and expressed appreciation for this pastoral support.  I left.  Shortly after I left, the family felt free to disband, more at peace with having honored the death of their loved one.  This is what my pastoral care looks like. It is part triage, part loving presence with a big dose of humility and love.  To include divinity and presence in the process of saying goodbye at end of life is the highest honor and privilege. I am so blessed to have this as my life’s work.  There is nothing better than being there for others when it matters the most and to be able to elevate God’s presence  and make it visible.  Blessed be.

Copyright© Cynthia Cady Stanton, April, 2019

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 5.53.12 PM

Poem · Poetry · Uncategorized

I Can See Who You Are

We hustle.

We bustle.

We cover up.

We avoid.

In the constant press forward,

the moments are lost.

When able to still ourselves,

we can catch glimpses of 

what is real.

I sat with a patient,

one of the sweet ones

with dementia.

Her eyes alive

with love and openness…

Her speech cute and senseless

most of the time.

I am present to her

and focus on being –

instead of doing.

When the time for goodbye comes,

I touch her shoulder

and lean in.

Her eyes widen

as these words spill forth

in clarity and affection:

           “I can see who you are!”

Grace finds me

and I am blessed by her glimpse.

I am reminded…

I am Love.

Copyright@ Cynthia Cady Stanton, 2018

alpay-tonga-542586-unsplash

Poem · Poetry

Grateful Heart

There is a lifting above

and a grounding below,

a warming at the center –

when I remember.

It is like the unexpected gift

presented with love

and perfect timing.

Or the lightness of being

that comes

with surrender

and trust –

even in the midst of

struggle or pain.

I hold onto it

even as I let go,

allowing the divine

to move through,

heal me with its dawning.

“I was born with a grateful heart,”

says the patient

on her dying bed.

I marvel at the gift she has

and how it fills her up at the end,

easing the way.

And then I remember,

so was I.

Copyright© Cynthia Cady Stanton, 2017

Gratefu Heart

Poem · Poetry · Uncategorized

Breathing Rare Air

 

“I don’t think you can see it,”
said my love one day
during one of our connecting moments
when he gently dared
to pull away my self-imposed blinders.
“You are too close to it.”

He may be right.
Maybe I don’t see it,
this reality that few get to be in.

I work in a strange land,
a land of life
and a land of death.
The terrain is sometimes rocky and treacherous,
sometimes peaceful,
always momentous.
Every day I am in the midst
of the end
and the beginning,
all wrapped up in the movement of breath
and the wrenching of hearts.
I get to witness this,
over and over.
And my love does not see
how I can do this.

I breathe rare air.
It is the air of final breaths,
filled with spaces, longing, regrets,
love and letting go.
On a daily basis,
I am next to bodies as they sputter to a stop.
I take in the worn faces and the withered forms
barely taking up space.
I breathe this rare air.
The air of souls bursting to be free.
I hear the sounds
and smell the smells.
I breathe rare air.

You may wonder what this does to me,
this rarified experience.
I wonder, too.
Is this death I witness contagious?
Will my disappearing act be hastened
because I am seemingly comfortable
in this strange land?

I think not.

If anything,
entering this territory on a daily basis
is an invitation.
A chance to truly see.
With eyes wide open to what lies ahead,
there is no pretending.
No glossing over or dodging the truth.
I will end one day,
or, at least my body will.
There is no covering this over
with any effort to avert it,
whether it is in being as healthy as I can be,
or in avoiding what needs attending
before it is too late.

No.

Working with the dying
and breathing this rare air,
has opened me up in ways
beyond my comprehension.
I am being changed.
How could I not be?
All I know now
is that with each inhale of this experience,
my tightly bound heart
unwraps a little more.
I am softening.
And here is the nub of it:
I am getting a head start
on letting go
of all that does not matter.
I am being schooled in death bed academics
and I intend to be a straight A student.
So, maybe working with the dying
and breathing this rare air
IS contagious
because in learning to let go now,
and do the work before me,
my death can be more beautiful
when my time comes,
and my loved ones
more at peace.

breathe

Copyright@2017 Cynthia Cady Stanton