I had the privilege and honor of meeting with a family whose mother is in the process of transitioning from life as we know it to life everlasting. Having only met the patient after the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s I cannot testify to who she was as a wife, a mother, or a friend. I can testify, however, to her sweet nature and beautiful smile she was always ready to offer. For me, her smile would light up the entire room. She had another side of her, however, that others spoke about but I never saw, for whatever reason. There was this other person that the Alzheimer’s had created; a side where she would be angry, often to the point of being violent. I never saw anything but her sweet smile.
Today her adult children gathered at her bedside and they reminisced about her as a mother, and a wife. They also acknowledged this other side that I was not privileged to witness. They acknowledged and shared some stories about her alter ego. This family was walking in a very sacred space as the embraced all that their mother has been. They celebrated the good and acknowledged the human aspect of their mom without shame, without embarrassment.
They understood that as humans, we often walk with one foot in the sacred space of life and one foot in the human side of life. A pastor friend of mine has an expression that I have used often; we all have our but’s, everyone of us. I love her, but……. He is a great man, but…..
Hopefully as Christians, we are in the process of letting go of our “but’s” and being transformed more and more into the image of Christ. A process of being set apart for God’s work, becoming a vessel which brings honor and glory to God’s name. This process for me is a life long journey. I am not perfect by any means and I can only hope that when my time comes, my family will be able to celebrate the sacred part of me and the human aspect also.
This family understood their mom was both spiritual and human and they were able to embrace all of her, accepting both aspects of who she has been.
I am often asked by families how I can do what I do as a hospice chaplain. My response is merely that I am honored to be invited into and share this sacred space with the patients and families.