“Only Christ could have brought us all together, in this place, doing such absurd but necessary things.”–Kathleen Norris
If one were to write an essay about what one did over their summer vacation, anyone who read mine would ask for a do-over. For eleven weeks I wondered semi-purposefully around St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, as a Chaplain Intern. This was the last requirement for my master’s degree. That’s right, me, a master’s degree. The term “Intern” is used to mean unpaid, as well as clueless. So six strangers set out on an adventure to discover who we really are, who God wants us to be, and how we respond to tragedy and help others deal with it.
CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education, might be genius, but if you tell my supervisor, Sister Barbara, I said that I will deny, deny, deny. First of all, Chaplains don’t go around trying to save people’s souls or waving Bibles at people. I saw Bibles in the hospital while I was there, but they were not carried by Chaplains. Chaplains have very difficult jobs, and are some of the strongest people I have ever met in my life. Consider that they are meeting people at some of the most difficult moments of their lives. We (they) are not there to take the place of your pastor or shove Jesus down your throat. We are there to meet you where you are, not to judge. I found that to be the most beneficial thing I could ever do. Somewhere during the process of 400 hours in the hospital, you find yourself changing. I had stood at the side of the bed with enough people as they had taken their last breath, watched family members agonize over what course of treatment to take with their loved one, that I figured out what was important. For me;
1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind
2. Live until you die
Indeed, it is absurd that one should ever hear the following statement from a child, “I don’t want to die.” What is more absurd, is that the statement requires a response, not because it is a fear, but because it is reality. It is absurd that parents should have to bury their children, because that is not the natural order of life, now is it? So often I heard “It just happened so fast.” or “If we just would have had more time.” No one ever say, they should have worked more hours at the office. I heard their regrets.
Do you have regrets? Well, you aren’t dead yet; so, live. Live until you die. Come together with fantastic people like I did and do absurd things. Grow. Learn. Challenge yourself. Do those things that are hard, and sometimes hurt like hell. Live until you die and hopefully you won’t be disappointed at the end, I know I won’t be.