Monday, April 7, 2014

Hospice Chaplain Weeks

Yesterday afternoon, my spouse and I floated around the pool on our sitting up floats, like our own private, lazy river at the waterpark, ride.  I should have been happy, and part of me was.  Part of me was overwhelmed by a rush of sadness.

I thought about the last time we floated in the pool, that last  Friday morning of March, the first day of the visit of my sister and nephew.  I love the first day of a visit.  It's that luxurious time, when it feels like everything is possible.  Yesterday, I felt some sadness that our great visit was over.

It's the first time I felt that sorrow; you might ask why, and the answer is also part of my sadness yesterday.

A week ago, I got to work feeling good about the week-end we'd just had.  Any sadness about the visit being over was delayed by the immersion back into the world of work.  There were puzzling e-mail messages:  several about a renewed enforcement of the dress code and several about a Monday morning meeting.  I foolishly thought we were meeting about the dress code.

No, we had news of more lay-offs, effective immediately.  We lost 2 faculty members, a student financial services person, and our associate dean. On Monday afternoon, I had a visit from a department member who attended the funeral of a good friend and decided to re-order his life; he asked me to see if I could find someone else to teach his class, so that he could go to help his family with their burgeoning goat herd up on the family land in the panhandle of Florida. 

We spent the rest of the week scrambling to get classes covered and to develop procedures for doing some of the things our associate dean did.  In addition, our registrar left us to start a new career as a police officer; our associate dean was going to help with some of those processes, but we needed a new plan after Monday morning.

It was a week full of Beckettian strangeness.  We had a training session where we had not one, but two people have trouble logging onto an essential computer account.  We had additional clarifications of the newly enforced dress code.  A colleague said, "One person has left us to be a cop and one has left us to be a goat herder.  What does that say?"  I decided to treat his question as rhetorical.

It was a week where I am reminded that the universe may be granting me an earlier wish to be a hospice chaplain.  I sat with people who are grieving losses.  Unlike a real hospice chaplain, however, I was unable to offer them much in the way of comfort.

This will be another week where I need my hospice chaplain skills, such as they are.  Many faculty members will be returning to this difficult news that I've had a week to let settle in my brain.  We also had the death of our former colleague on Friday.  We have much to grieve.

And as with grieving people everywhere, there is the fear that more loss waits for us just around the corner.

Let me though remind myself that it was also a week of good news, some of which I may write more about in the weeks to come.  It was a week of getting some major projects finished.  It was a week where although we lost one colleague, my best friend who battles esophageal cancer survives to fight another week.  It was a week of a beautiful concert and a great book about poets and faith.  It was a week where my students turned in papers that were overwhelmingly well written.  It was a week where I was reminded that I'm surrounded by humans who are trying to do the best that they can.  It was a week where I remembered to say please and thank you, as did most people I know.  It was a week full of reminders of grace and gratitude.

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