When people learn that I’m a Chaplain, I often hear, “Wow, it must be hard to be around death so much.” Often, they think Chaplains are Grim Reapers and represent gloom and death. Is it challenging and heartbreaking to be a Chaplain? Of course.
It is so much more though.
Being a Chaplain is having someone hold out a withered, crooked hand for you to hold and grab your heart in the process.
It is about raw emotion. The removal of the veil of “strength” we think everyone should wear. It is the moment when people demonstrate true strength, as they allow expression of emotions they’ve never known. Emotions they’ve always wanted to express but could not.
It is witnessing the courage to say “I’m afraid.”
It is watching a single tear, or flood of tears, pour from that part of the soul that loves deeply, and hurts even more.
It is allowing others to be other.
It is never saying “It will be okay” but always saying “It’s okay to feel what you feel, however you need to feel it, and on your own timeline.”
It is hearing countless stories of praise, celebration, and joy.
It is hearing words of anger, sadness, confusion, and chaos.
It is hearing people question God. Question everything.
It is being still. It is being quiet. It is being with others. Being with them.
It is not saying anything, because there is nothing to say, and that nothing is exactly what they need to hear.
It is loving people you don’t know.
It is being loved by people who don’t know you.
It is experiencing the most sacred moments.
Those moments where the heart and head don’t agree. Where the head may believe the loved one is receiving perfect life, yet the heart breaks into pieces, which never fit back together in the same way again.
It is literally watching this miraculous process take place, where people have this moment they’ve never had before. This moment that is filled with all moments they’ve ever had. All the memories they have with this person were made a moment at a time, spread over many years, yet you stand there and hear these memories come together all at once, and it is sacred. All this person has ever been and will ever be fills the room. I’m quite sure the essence of the person is being felt by all, and we are changed forever by this precious creation.
So, when people ask how I do it. How I am able to be around death? It is not the death I am around as much as the Kaleidoscope that I experience. According to our friend Wiki, A kaleidoscope is a cylinder with mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass. As the viewer looks into one end, light entering the other end creates a colorful pattern, due to the reflection off the mirrors. Coined in 1817 by Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster, “kaleidoscope” is derived from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”, εἶδος(eidos), “that which is seen: form, shape” and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine”, hence “observation of beautiful forms.”
These precious people that allow me into these sacred moments are Kaleidoscopes; they are beautiful, beauty, forms of unique and precious treasure; one being made up of many bits of mirrors reflecting all the loved ones standing around them and each specific memory. They are the light that shines through these bits to make a pattern that is colored with unique hues of this person.
Don’t feel you ever have to thank a Chaplain. Chaplains don’t need thanks. We say…I say…thank you. Thank you for allowing me to experience your unique beauty…your Kaleidoscope.
If you think you were my inspiration for this, you are probably right.
Kim Crawford 12.22.15