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By MARGIE ADAMS
Every once in a while, a book stands out and speaks to you. I have read just such a book.
In “On Living,” Hospice Chaplain Kerry Egan writes “the spiritual work of being human is learning how to love and how to forgive.”
Some of my fondest moments are teaching my little daughter to pray. In families, these can be precious times. We learn about love in the classroom of the family, Egan tells us, “People talk to the chaplain about their families because that is how we talk about God. That is how we talk about the meaning of our lives.”
But there is a lot of pain in love.
Everyone, every one of us, is broken.
There have been times when I’ve experienced my life as a cup half full. Sometimes the cup is chipped, or the cup is cracked, or worse. Whatever my metaphor, I have felt I was not drinking life from a full, unbroken cup.
In our brokenness, we have a story to tell — a story of many small traumas that have spilled into a mudhole in which we are stuck. Or our trauma may be one big awful thing that we never expected, and it hurts too much to even think about. It can take years for that cracked and broken cup to be restored. Sometimes things are put right because we choose to forgive and let the pain go. More often we hide the pain and try to move on. That mudhole may never dry up.
I used to think I was unlucky. Then I thought, maybe it’s just that I didn’t see the hurt coming and I vowed to keep my eyes and heart open to avoid being hurt. A person can become quite defensive in that frame of mind.
In my work as a chaplain, I hear peoples’ stories and keep them in my heart and my prayers. This is a sacred profession.
Egan writes: “(Patients) talk about the love they felt and the love they gave. Often, they talk about the love they didn’t receive or the love they didn’t know how to offer, or about the love they withheld or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.”
Yes, there’s a lot of pain in love. The simple smile of another or a phone call is sometimes the only love connection some of us experience and cling to.
An amazing thing happens when a person in pain sees a compassionate connection in another’s eyes. A touch on the shoulder or a kiss on the forehead becomes a kind of sacrament. There are stories to tell of all kinds of hurt. The listening, not fixing, is a God moment.
Margie Adams is staff chaplain of PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.