As the news around us is filled with death and pain, I reflect on the life we are given and what we must do with it. As a hospice chaplain, I am told almost daily by friends, family and even strangers about how difficult my job must be and how they would not want to do it. My response usually shocks them. I tell them that my job fills me with joy! Not the kind of joy we think of when we win the lottery, but true joy…joy that comes from helping make the end of someone’s life meaningful and honorable.
I believe that everyone’s lives matter until the end and as God’s children, it is our responsibility to make life the best it can be, for however long that is. I think one of the best ways to honor life is not by looking back on what has happened nor looking at the future and what is yet to come, but focusing on the present.
If God has taught me anything while spending time with those who are at the end of life, it is that it is okay just to be there. I think we try to fill space with noise; be it the endless news on TV or radio, cell phones that are with us 24/7, or having to speak the right words in the moment. It is difficult to not want to fill that time with something. It may be our humanness or culture that pushes us to fill that time with other things and not be present in those moments but I have truly found God in the moments I spend with people at the very end of their lives. It is in those moments of just being there, of being present, that I feel fulfillment and purposeful.
So to all those who are interacting with those who are at the end of life —family members, staff, nurses, social workers, CNAs, volunteers, or family friends, I leave you with a challenge. Take time in the moments that God has given you to spend with someone passing through their last phase in life. Don’t worry about saying the right thing at the right time. Don’t worry about the list of things that needs to be done. Don’t focus on what you should have done or even what you did… focus on the life right now, the present. Just be with your loved one. I think a lot of people may ask, “Why does it all matter?” My answer to that is that God is love and love happens in moments that doesn’t need words, things, or actions. Love happens by being present.
Written by Trevor Bartolomucci
Trevor is married to his wife, Audrey, for 12 years now and is gifted with two wonderful children, Zeke and Maizy. Before becoming a chaplain for Transitions, Trevor worked for 15 years as a Youth and Family Ministries Director for his church. During that time, he was blessed to lead many mission trips and enjoyed serving God and watching his youth and helpers do the same. After the 2013 tornado that hit his hometown, Washington, Trevor directed the Hope Swings Project that brought swing-sets and smiles to families whose homes had been lost because of the storm. On his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, working on his 19703 Volkswagen bus, and spending time outdoors.