I’m so appreciative of the medical community these days and I’m often concerned at how stressed they are. Even before Covid, many of them were overworked. I don’t know how they keep at it day after day. I wish I could show them support or even step in to work with them like I did when I was a minister where I was present for people during their times of suffering.
I was glad and honored to do it, but you know what? Hospital visitation and the other things didn’t come naturally to me. I was always squeamish as a kid. Needles and blood made me feel faint. As a young minister, I often found myself shaking as I entered a hospital room to visit a parishioner. A couple of times, I lost my nerve and left before I went in. But I persevered, learning how to push my anxieties aside. It was important to be with people during their vulnerable moments. In addition to visiting the hospitals, I volunteered to drive an ambulance for a small community, and was a hospice chaplain, often sitting with people during their last moments as they lay in their hospital beds.
Those early anxieties returned to me the last couple of years before I quit the ministry. By that time, even walking into the nursing home to perform music for the residents made me shake all over. My counselor suggested that my carrying the secret of no longer believing in God took a lot of energy and so doing the work of ministry, especially during those intense moments, was much more draining.
I’ve mentioned before that all those memories remain in my mind. Watching a medical drama on TV can trigger a lot of emotions that lurk just under the surface of my consciousness.
I’m not sure I could ever go back to doing that work in a professional capacity. And that seems a shame because I have the skills and experience for it. It makes sense that I might at least volunteer my services somehow as a humanist chaplain. But I don’t think I can. Maybe I did as much as I could and my shift is over.
But letting it go is not easy. I’m relieved at the thought of being released from that duty, but I also feel guilt and obligation, especially when there’s more suffering and grief than ever.
But I took my turn and I don’t have to go back to it. Maybe that’s more than okay. People tell me to enjoy the life that I have now. I’m still learning how to do that.