Reflections of a Chaplain: demanding, heart breaking and a huge privilege

Submitted by Joanna
Lead Chaplain, RSCH

As chaplains, our team has been present on the wards throughout the pandemic. Our role has been to support not only the patients but also relatives and members of staff.

We have listened to staff sharing their fear and exhaustion, passed messages for relatives and been with their loved ones when they could not and held the hands of frightened and very sick or dying patients and offered prayers for them when it was appropriate. It has been demanding, heart breaking and a huge privilege.

There are so many stories, but one which sticks in my mind was my first visit to a patient dying with Covid-19. He was someone I knew well as he had been a volunteer for the Trust for many years until retiring in his 80s.

I was driving my oldest child down from university just before the first lockdown started and received a message when I was four hours from home from the on-call chaplain to tell me the patient was end of life and had been asking for me.

I said prayers for the dying and blessed him over the phone while sitting in a service station car park just north of Birmingham. As soon as I arrived home after about 10 hours of driving, I rushed to the hospital and arrived in time to see him and bless him again before he died.

I remember the awkwardness of the unfamiliar PPE and the feeling of deep sorrow for him ending his life that way. Everything in those first days felt quite surreal and l remember I had so much anxiety for myself, my family and my colleagues about the risks and the unknowns of this new disease.

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