Hospice...A Thing of the Spirit


by Rev. Jack Marshall, Chaplain and Niagara Hospice Director of Spiritual Care

First off, let's set the record straight. The vast majority of hospice patients are living.  Only a small percent of hospice patients are dying. That's right! They are living!  They are living with life threatening conditions and diseases. They may be dealing with pain, loss of independence and may be fighting to breathe, but they are living.

The quality and dignity of each patient's life is paramount in Hospice. While a condition or illness can rob people of their mobility and can cause pain and anxiety, they are not what define our patients. Their courage and spirit are what defines a hospice patient, their hope. Whatever gives life meaning makes the difference. Something in our nature calls us to live a life with a purpose that is larger than we are.

So what gives meaning to my life? My friends, my family, faith or perhaps simple faith in my fellow human beings is what I find is most important in my life. Keeping pace with, and remaining a part of what is important to me, to my life, helps us to celebrate our spiritual being. Spiritual Care Counselors, or Chaplains, help people to stay connected or to re-connect to our spiritual grounding.

The patient's needs and wants are what gives direction to our relationship. I'm here to be present as a companion on your journey that can become intimately our journey. We can share thoughts, laughter and our fears. When it is your wish, we can share faith and belief and I can be the chaplain. I become the reconnection to a faith community if you want, or our team can stand with you, just as we are.

I'm not here to judge, nor am I here to correct your life. Whatever your condition or disease, I can't fix it, nobody can. I can help you stay calm and live today a little easier, perhaps a little better. I will help you remember the person you are, not just the condition you're enduring.

In the end, I have my own faith and beliefs, but those are mine, not yours. I won't preach to you and I won't try to change you. I will sit with you and listen. As I journey with you, what you feel is most important in your life is what I will help you to live out as fully as you can, for as long as you can.

In the end, we chaplains get to share a broad experience of the spiritual life that everyone has. It may not be religious at all or it may be deeply religious. We are there to support you in your journey, not choose the direction; that is up to you. You can trust us with thoughts that you might not be able to say to others. It's our honour and privilege to be there, and our sacred trust to walk with you.


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