“As chaplains what we try to bring is our presence to people, and for them to know they are safe with us to express whatever emotion they need to express. Sometimes it’s tears, sometimes it’s anger…There’s always an intensity to it, but the grace for me always comes when I’m with someone, and can simply be there, present to their pain, holding it with them, and holding on so I can do that – that afterwards you just feel that release in them.”
− Nancy Small, pictured Rt, hospice chaplain with VNA Care, Massachusetts. Also pictured are physician Joel Bauman, Center, and Beth Loomis, Left, Mt. Auburn Hospital Director of Pastoral Care
At the end of life, most people need medical care and emotional comfort – and some turn also to chaplains for spiritual support. In this poignant hour of Humankind, we hear from two chaplains in Massachusetts: Nancy Small, a Catholic oblate serving patients near Worcester; and Rev. Beth Loomis, Director of Pastoral Care and a United Church of Christ minister, based at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. What are the challenges of serving those facing their final chapter? How do chaplains comfort people as they try to make sense of the kaleidoscope of their life experiences, including joys and regrets? How do hospice staff, also including nurses and social workers, affirm that everyone’s life has worth and meaning? We also hear the fascinating reflections of a dying patient, Brian Noone, recorded with his devoted wife Rosalie by his side. Listen to a beautiful rendition of Love Call Me Home, a hymn sung by the Hallowell Singers, a Vermont-based chorus that performs in the rooms where hospice patients stay. Then in the second half, we dive into a rich dialogue with Joel Bauman, a remarkably gifted physician, trained in care for the elderly. He also describes the special needs of palliative care for hospice patients, who have shifted from seeking a cure (which may no longer be realistic) to relief of symptoms and distress, as life draws to a close.