Sunday, December 21, 2014

Why I love my job…and hate it too.

A.Hanson, 2013
I love my job as a hospital chaplain. I get to be present with God's beloved people at all stages of their lives.  I get to be present at the beginning, middles, and ends of so many lives. 

I hate my job too.  I will meet you at the doors of the Emergency Department and escort you to a windowless room that is euphemistically called the "Compassion Room" and tell you that I will find the doctor to speak with you. To deliver the horrible news that you never imagined. 

I love my job because I get to hold the presence of the holy in unimaginable situations.  But I also hate my job because I will tell you that I was standing alongside your loved one praying when they coded and were pronounced dead in a sterile trauma room. I hate this because you should have been the one who stood with them, not me. 

I love my job because I get to hear so many stories of love and families and travel and adventures. I get to be a part of your life for a little bit of time, and that is such an honor.  

But I hate my job because some of the most intimate moments of your life are invaded by strangers.  By chaplains and social workers and nurses and doctors, and we are all kind, but you never wanted to see us. Not now. 

I love my job because I drive away from the hospital at night and I often cry.  I shed tears because of the injustice of it all.  Because of the beauty of your life or death. Because I grieve along with you.  But I hate my job because while your entire world changed in an instant, I have an extremely skewed sense of what is normal, and I know that tomorrow will hold another tragedy and another death and another trauma for another family.  And I will cry alongside them too. 

I love my job because I will sit with you in the darkest moments of your life.  I will hold your hand and walk with you.  I will provide you with information and guidance about things you never wanted to know.  And I do so because I love you even though I have not met you. 

I hate my job because I have to talk with you about mortuaries and organ and tissue donation and coroners and final conversations to have with your loved one and letting go. I hate my job because sometimes I have to be the one to tell you that it is time to leave the hospital because this is the start of a new normal. Even though you wish that the world could stop and you could freeze this moment of time forever.  

I love my job because I am truly working in the midst of the world and in the trenches where God can be found. And I get to proclaim with my pastoral presence and comforting touch and gentle words that God is here and death is not the end.  And that you can borrow the strength of a merciful God when it feels like you cannot go on. 

But I hate my job because I have the same questions that you do.  "How could God let this happen?"  "Why didn't God heal them?"  "Where is the justice?"  

But I love my job because I promise to sit with you and go with you wherever you need to go. I am not afraid of your pain or illness or body fluids or trauma.  I love my job because it is my calling. 


EllenHar said...


Nathan said...

Thank you for the work that you do. This past year I buried an uncle and both of my grandfathers. I loved them dearly. I had the honor to carry my grandfathers caskets, it was the least I could do. I know that your job is so much more than people passing, but you help us carry our loved ones those last, long steps. For that you and all the chaplains have our deepest thanks.