A Chaplain's Support: Spiritual Guidance and Perspective
Posted by Marlene Delaney
My late husband, Tom, and I were both raised Catholic but, over time, we quit practicing our religion and became fallen-away Catholics. That didn't mean that my core beliefs changed – I still prayed, did volunteer work, etc., but we didn't belong to a church.
Then Tom got sick. I continued to pray but, as time went on, my prayers changed from "Please help him get better" to "Please let him have a good day." I asked people to keep us in their thoughts and prayers, but the miracle of prayer didn't help us. Before Tom died, we talked about his funeral: Would he be cremated (my wish)?; Did he want visitation and open casket (yes)?; Who should say the eulogy (two of his best friends)?;,How would his family behave (don't ask)?. But we did not broach the religious Aspect of the funeral. So when Tom moved to Midwest CareCenter's former hospice facility in Skokie, I was at a loss for how a funeral was going to come together.
I shouldn't have been. The staff – specifically the social worker and chaplains – at Midwest CareCenter started talking with us about the funeral almost immediately. A chaplain from hospice offered to preside over the service and music would be provided by a music therapist. Someone called the funeral homes that were on my list to find out costs. It seemed that things would actually come together without significant stress on me. For that I will always be thankful.
But even more so, I think the spiritual guidance that we received from the chaplains was amazing. They listened to us, they counseled us, they cried with us, and they laughed with us. I will always remember when the chaplain that was performing the funeral service stopped by our house to chat with us. She used that discussion and turned it into a beautiful tribute to Tom during his funeral. What a wonderful group of people!
And I still rely on a specific conversation that I had with one of the chaplains: We were talking about organized religion and I, of course, was dealing with Catholic guilt over not being churchgoing people. The chaplain said that some people need religion to guide them in life. Religion provides the routine and structure that they need to live a good life.
He equated religion to a bus: Some people need a bus to get from one place to another. But then, he said, we seemed like people that didn't need a bus. We seemed to know the right thing to do without the structure of organized religion. As he said, being on the bus or not being on the bus isn't right or wrong. What matters is if you can look upon your life as a good life. I can look at Tom's life as a good life. Of course he wasn't perfect, but he was pretty good. I still have not gotten on the bus, but I pray and hope that I will look back on my life as a good life, too.