We Came In As Strangers

After my first unit of CPE I wrote a poem. Now as I approach the end of unit two, I have written another one. This sums up what it’s like for me as I enter the hospitals and do my best to minister as a chaplain. I am incredibly blessed for the work I get to do. I look forward to continuing on my path and in my calling!

I open the door to your room and I see the window of your soul,

You who are timid, shy, afraid,

But at the same time courageous, fearless, and strong,

You who are spirited as the result of being a warrior.

I ask if I can come in and you hesitatingly agree,

Making small talk at first,

Your eyes darting to the corners of the room and finally gazing out the window,

You are fixated on getting unstuck,

On leaving what you perceive to be a prison,

And yet your legs won’t let you.

You let out a sigh, and in that sigh I hear a thousand different things,

Pain, anguish, longing, and dread co-mingled with expectant hope.

At this moment, I notice you are truly vulnerable,

Your tiny frail body shivering despite the heat,

Your eyes looking sad and droopy,

The remains of your untouched breakfast on your tray table.

You search my face and for a moment, I also feel vulnerable.

We have met as strangers, yet now we are connecting at a deep level,

And you don’t even know my name.

I sense my own face flush and pray it’s not visible.

I feel a thousand emotions running through my own mind as my heart beats wildly in my chest,

I check myself to make sure that I stay present for you.

I will myself to be fully focused on this moment where time stands still.

I breathe a prayer under my mask that God gives me the words to say,

Yet it doesn’t take long before you jump in rattling the silence.

You tell me about your children and grandchildren,

You tell me about your garden,

You tell me about your pet dog.

From there, you take me on a journey through your childhood,

Growing up on the farm and picking vegetables,

You tell me about your first job,

About your first love,

About heartbreak and healing,

About marriage and divorce,

About the grief and traumas you have endured,

The whole time I feel privileged,

I am unsure what I have done to secure your trust.

All I did was say hello and introduce myself,

But you heard the word “chaplain” and you immediately felt drawn to me.

As we talk the seconds turn to minutes and soon an hour has passed,

You pause for a drink of water, carefully sipping so it doesn’t moisten your gown,

And involuntarily you cough.

You are caught by surprise at what has poured forth from you,

And I find myself recognizing this moment for what it is: Sacred.

In your stories you have shared the narrative of your life.

I have hardly done anything,

A few nods, a few guiding questions, a few umm-hmmms,

And yet for the first time in a while you have felt truly understood.

We came in as strangers, we are now to depart as fellow travelers.

You thank me for my time and for my listening ear,

All the while I know you have been my teacher and guide.

You ask me when I will come back to visit,

I find myself drawn to wanting to see you again.

I check myself knowing that on this journey we have met at a crossroads.

We never talked about God and yet I felt God was present the whole time.

You never even told me what you believe, and yet I sense your spirit.

You didn’t ask if I was a minister, and yet, I felt I ministered to you just as you ministered to me.

We make a plan to meet again.

The day comes, you aren’t there.

You have been taken up on wings to whatever the next realm is.

I find myself filled with sadness,

I felt you had become a friend.

I find myself wondering about some of the stories you told.

I know you suffered greatly in this world, I hope you find serenity in the next.

I didn’t expect this day to come so soon,

I know I shouldn’t be attached, but I’m only human.

I look out the window and I see a rainbow.

I see a promise.

Goodbye brave soul. We met as strangers, we will meet again one day as friends.

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