GIVE AND TAKE: How a Patient Visit Refreshed a Chaplain’s Soul

By Chaplain Gordon Ruddick

The first patient I saw yesterday was not someone I could do anything for. He had died just a few minutes prior to the start of my shift. Since I was in the office and this was one of my patients I was notified of the death. I made my way up to the room at the other end of the hospital.

It had been a sudden death. Not unexpected, but it had slipped in while the son was out of the room and quickly taken this man. I met his young-adult daughter who was sitting on the couch gently crying.

I did what I could to provide support for the daughter and then the son after he reentered the room. The visit was short, the time was spent sharing what they needed to know, and then I was gone as I sensed their need to be alone with dad.

Another day of giving had begun. Now I am not complaining at all. I love my job and the opportunities it gives me to be a loving, caring presence with people who really need that. And so often I am thankful almost beyond words for the opportunities that come my way. I get more than I ever give. But giving is needed.

It had not been a hard day. Sometimes, once in a while, they are. Today had been a day with a lot of variety, which is also why I like being a chaplain. It seems that sometimes I am supposed to receive a bit that I don’t see coming.

I guess this was one of those days.

The last patient I saw yesterday was someone I almost decided not to even try to see. I noticed an order to see her for “anxiety.” She was listed as “no preference,” which is the largest denomination in our part of the country. She also lives in a foster home and has a schizoaffective disorder, meaning that sometimes that can be a real challenge. And sometimes not. I went in.

She was trying to rest. That’s why I had hesitated. Not because of who she was or what I might find.  I saw the sleeping mask just being pulled over her eyes. I understand when people need to rest. But this time I felt I needed to make an exception. I introduced myself. When I said I was a chaplain she was very receptive. And then I noticed what she was listening to. She had her tablet turned on and was listening to contemporary worship songs, most of which I knew.

We sat for a while softly talking on occasion about where she lives and so forth. She told me about her church connection. I actually know some of “her people” and so that was pleasant. Mostly we sat hand in hand and sang some worship music about loving and wanting God’s presence no matter what is going on in our lives. I could sense some of the troubles in her life, some of the loneliness and sorrow, the desire for love and acceptance, the anxiety she sometimes feels. And I could identify with many of those at times in my live as well. We sang about how great our God is. That one is actually one of my favorite songs! We sang about receiving help right in the midst of hard times.

The pager beckoned and my visit needed to be shortened a bit. Worship time was about over. I offered to pray for her and she received that with gladness. She thanked me for coming. I quietly said to her, “No, thank you. Do you know that this has been the best part of my entire day? You have blessed me more than you could know. Thank you!”

“You mean I blessed the preacher?” she said with a look of surprise. I assured her that was true more than she knew.  The “choir of two” was just what I needed to end my day, whether or not I knew it.  How great is our God, and what a privilege I have to live and sing that truth.

Director of Chaplaincy, Andy Meverden, adds:

Chaplain Ruddick, a seasoned hospital chaplain, cardiac patient, and lover of muscle cars, is gifted with a warm heart, listening ears, and beautiful singing voice; all of which he brings to each hospital visit. He has learned to rely on a developed sense of observation, guided by God’s Spirit to discern each patient’s need.  Seeking first to bless, he often comes away with unexpected blessing.

Gordon is one of over 40 CBAmerica chaplains ministering in the healthcare setting. For more stories of ministry experiences, go to www.cbamerica.org/chaplaincy. For information on pursuing endorsement for chaplaincy, contact Andy Meverden, Director of Chaplaincy at chapandy@cbamerica.org.

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