Spiritual Care & Companionship
I am a visual storyteller and story catcher with a special interest in end-of-life planning. After a career in education and then directing programs for survivors of sexual violence, I have devoted the last dozen years to graphic facilitation, teaching visual thinking skills, and more recently capturing people’s wishes, hopes, and dreams for their final days and death. I am finishing my first year of chaplaincy training at the Upaya Zen Center.
As part of my training, I chose to learn (in part) through engaging in a Clinical Pastoral Education internship. The experience was intense, wonderful, challenging, heart-warming, hilarious, heartbreaking, and more.
I invite you to step into my experience for just a few minutes.
Imagine you’re in a hospital… perhaps as a patient, maybe as a partner or family member of the patient.
Now there’s a knock on the door… the person standing there says, “Hello, I’m the chaplain, I’m stopping in to see how you’re doing… “
What would your reaction be?
Take a moment to reflect. Have you ever met a chaplain before—what was that experience like?
Even if you have met a chaplain before, do you know what a chaplain is and does?
True story, I had never met a chaplain and I didn’t know what chaplains do seven years ago when my dad had a stroke and was hospitalized. I believe the chaplain stopped by at some point during my dad’s hospital stay but I can’t remember. I had no idea what chaplains did or any desire to find out during that challenging time…
Now, I believe that knowing what a chaplain is and does would influence whether people engage with chaplains.
My belief is supported by my internship last year at Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown, NY.
What do you think?
How might a clear understanding influence your response to the invitation to a conversation or the offer of support?
Moments of Connection…
I discovered that people of all ages, denominations, races, genders, and classes had little idea of what chaplains are and do. There were hilarious, sweet, and challenging instances of confusion … to name just a few—
- I was called “Father” by a well-intentioned patient
- told, “You know the big guy, put in a good word for me.”
- And, I have been mistaken for both Christian and Jewish chaplains—I am neither.
These experiences led me to talk with my preceptor about the kinds of information that patients and their families received about chaplains and chaplaincy when admitted to the hospital. While there is an admissions folder containing information about pastoral care, who reads all the information they’re given when they walk in the hospital door? I began to wonder how accessible the information was and how realistic it is to assume that people will see it and use it.
In response to my experiences and the answers I received from my preceptor, I decided to create a visual to help people understand the roles of chaplains.
My goal became enabling patients and their families to access all the resources that might aid in their healing, recovery, difficult decision-making, and more.
Here’s the most recent version of the zine.
I created this piece because I believe that a comic will, in a novel and accessible way, enable patients and their families to make informed decisions about whether to engage with chaplains/spiritual caregivers.
Being in a hospital is at times a lonely, uncomfortable, and tiring experience at best. I believe that one comic could pave the way for a relationship that would support patients’ medical care, through spiritual care, while in the hospital.
Care for patients can be elevated by ensuring that the materials they receive are approachable, engaging, and easily understood. In this instance, a graphic can become one of the medicines supporting the patients’ experiences.
If having a copy of this zine would be of use to you in your work or to those you serve, please feel free to download it and distribute it with attribution. (Set your printer to double-sided printing.)
If you have feedback, ideas, leads, or connections that will enable me to get this piece out into the world, please contact me, at firstname.lastname@example.org.