There are many understandings of dying well but few extol the value of loneliness. And the hospice chaplains described in this article know that, beyond all else. It’s powerful stuff which transcends any particular faith or ideology. In, fact, many of the people doing chaplaincy are not clergy at all. Perhaps that is why they are so good at what they do? Perhaps. But they are definitely people who are a great deal like God, at least the one (the One?) who reveals Him- or Herself to Moses at their first meeting.
These chaplains serve all comers and do so by starting with the needs of the person in front of them, not the ideology inside of them. They are Buddhists who work with atheists, former priests who pray Hebrew prayers with Jews, etc.
In each case they privilege presence over dogma, not unlike the God who says to Moses when asked how to answer the question about who sent him to free the Israelites. “Tell them”, God says, “I will be what I will be”. As the future unfolds God will be as needed. Who better than these hospice chaplains lives that message every day?
And if it’s good enough for God, shouldn’t that approach be good enough for all religious leaders too? Of course, theology, philosophy and doctrine matter too. But as we die, which will we really want, the person who puts us first, or the one who puts their particular practice first?
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About Windows & DoorsAuthor, radio and TV talk show host, and President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, Brad Hirschfield is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Listed as one of the nation’s 50 most influential rabbis in Newsweek, and a regular commentator on Court TV, he is the creator of the popular series, Building Bridges, airing on Bridges TV, and the co-host of the weekly radio show, Hirschfield and Kula.
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