Tag Archives: chaplaincy

A Promise is a Promise

wedding rings

One Thursday 3rd November I celebrated my Silver Wedding Anniversary and consider myself lucky to be someone who has found his soul mate. So my mind went back to the promises we had made on that day which, in my own imperfect and flawed ways, I have kept. But my mind also went back to a few days before my anniversary, when I was called out to Critical Care. Here was another couple who had been together 25 years – first meeting whilst working for the Government under the Official Secrets Act – both with risky jobs. But now his wife was critically ill and about to die. When I met Ron [not his real name] he hugged me and wept profusely on my shoulder. “I love her so much!” he said. “We’ve been through so much together; I don’t know how I will live without her.” He told me about their life together; their love; and his heartbreak now- and then he asked me to do something: “Will you baptise me?” he asked. Ron explained that he had always promised his wife that he would get baptised but had put it off and off. He believed but there had always been something more pressing which prevented him from doing it. “Please will you baptise me in the presence of my wife while she is still alive.” So in a congregation of four, with the nurse from the Unit joining us at Ron’s request because she had been so kind, I baptised this man, on his profession of faith, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And then we prayed that God might welcome his wife as she embarked on the next stage of her journey. “See, I’ve kept my promise to you Darling. I’ve been baptised and you’ve been part of it.And with that, she slipped away. Heartbroken would be an understatement to describe Ron’s emotions, but he took some comfort that he had fulfilled the vow which he made to his wife in her lifetime and had kept his promise ‘til death did them part.

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EVERY DEATH MATTERS…

If I just treat things routinely, then please tell me to get another job!

If I just treat things routinely, then please tell me to get another job!

IF I ever think of anyone’s passing as “just another death” then it will be time to leave my job. 

Last weekend I was called into hospital to pray for a woman who had died.  

She had been well until a few days ago so her death was a shock for all her children. But an even bigger shocker was that her husband was an inpatient on another ward.

I was still there when the husband was brought across to see his recently departed wife. He asked if I was the Padre and we went together behind the drawn curtains of the bed area, where he wept and spoke to his loved one.  

And the words he spoke brought a stinging to my eyes: “Thank you so much” he said “for giving me a wonderful life. You’ve been so brave and so loving and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”  

Needless to say I was very moved. This death, like all deaths, was unique. Touching a unique number of individuals in a unique way. And the words of this man were spot on. Not just another death in a hospital.  

But the death of a woman who had changed some people’s lives. So with sadness in my heart, and after time spent with the family and (at their request) praying for them all, I left the ward – stopping to say goodbye to a staff member. I could see from her eyes that she had been crying, so I hugged her and we understood the sacrifice and privilege of working in hospital.  

She, too, had been moved by this death – even though she had seen many deaths in her time in the NHS. Thank God that she and I were not hardened to this sadness.  

So if you see me treat any person’s death as “just another death” then tell me to get out of Chaplaincy. And if you – nurse, midwife, medic, administrator, healthcare assistant – view any patient’s passing as “just another…” then well… you can fill in the blanks for yourself.

You can read my column every Monday in Worcester News or visit the website for the article here: http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/13878984.David_Southall_health_column__It_s_not_just__another_death_in_hospital_/

Treading in the Footsteps of Others: A Chaplain’s Compassion

Others will follow your footsteps easier than they will your advice.

Others will follow your footsteps easier than they will your advice.

I used to play a game on the beach with my daughter when she was younger.
I would walk along the shoreline, barefooted in the wet sand, and she would follow me, trying her best to walk in my footprints and not leave a mark of her own.

It’s easy to think that we are IT isn’t it? Well it is for me at least!
The fact that we are here NOW is obvious. But many have trodden these paths before us, doing the job that we do, making a difference.
We really do stand on the shoulders of giants.

This was brought home to me by a recent email from a retired Chaplain who was a perdecessor of mine: Canon Lisle Ryder.

Lisle had seen mention of my blog somewhere and wrote to express his appreciation. He worked at Castle Street and Ronkswood before the new site and was instrumental in the spiritual care provision (including our lovely Prayer Room) at the present site of Worcestershire Royal Hospital until 2003.

And in amongst all that he went about his business of caregiving and compassionate actions.

Lisle sent me a beautiful poem with a short explanation, which for me sums up what the business of Chaplaincy and care in the NHS are about. It moved me; and I hope it does the same for you.He says:

“This is about Jim (I’ve used his real name). I had been with when his wife had a stroke and he was a wonderful support through her recovery. Later he was admitted himself as a patient and in the meantime his wife Isabel had died. He so much appreciated seeing someone who remembered her.

Jim

You look so pleased to see me
from far along the ward – Jim:
I recognised you after several years and,
returning after analgesia relieved the pain,
shared Communion. Christ’s love
which reminded you of the struggle
of Isabel. Memories re-enacting
that stroke which took so much.
I recalled her first words, that revealed her
Scottish – the long commitment you made
to her recovery. You took her home – risen.
Her life I remember vivid, but her death
is absence.
I left you sorrowful, but
somehow thankful for what we’d known, and shared
and treasured of Isabel – her courage, our faith
made new there at the bedside. Bread
and wine hallowed again and again – risen.

Hope in the Face of Adversity: A Christmas Baby

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

In May I will have been at Worcestershire Royal Hospital as Chaplain for 5 years.

And so every now and then I bump into people who I have met in other circumstances- none more so that this story.

I was minding my own business chatting to a Volunteer in the Main Entrance of the Royal when I noticed a dishevelled man out of the corner of my eye. You kind of get a second sense when you think someone wants to speak with you, and so I asked him if he was OK. His name was Ben, he looked knackered, and he told me why. “My wife Alice is expecting a baby and I have been awake for 36 hours straight.” He said his wife was called Alice, and I wished him good luck and went on my way.

Later that day I was about to go home and I saw him again. This time he still looked knackered but with a dazed air about him; almost floating through the entrance of the hospital (on his way out to have a fag). “How’s it going I asked?” “O Great, she’s had, I ,mean we’ve had, a baby girl.” “Congratulations! Have a cigar!” I said (more a turn of phrase than an anti-health promotion message.”

He told me that their baby was called SOPHIA, and that his partner was called Alice. More than that “Alice would like to see you after what happened before.”

O dear, now the penny dropped. I obviously had some connection to this woman; (not her partner- he was new to me); and so I was wracking my brains.

I went down to post-natal, and when I found ALICE the memories immediately flooded back. Three and a half years ago I had taken the funeral of her son after a pregnancy loss. I remember Alice in particular; vulnerable and still and reserved but full of grief. And I remembered the service, and the blessing I gave to her little boy: “May the Lord bless you…”

And now here she was, and in her arms was a beautiful baby girl. And as Alice saw me her face crinkled into gratitude and relief. “Oh. I’m so glad you’ve come; you’ve really made this time special.”

I was speechless. I’d only just shown my face (and that’s enough to put most people off). I am aware that so often I’m involved in some of the saddest times in peoples lives, and, understandably, they don’t want that bringing back to them by memories evoked by my presence.

But not Alice.

So she passed baby Sophia to me and for a few moments I stood there rocking her and admiring this new life who had emerged into the world. She was beautiful, and fragile, and it felt like I was treading on “Holy Ground”.

And after a moment Alice asked: “Would you say a blessing for Sophia?”

And so, in the same words which were echoed three and a half years ago for her brother for whom time was so short, I prayed for Sophia:

“Sophia, may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you his peace.”

And now, one final, bold request. “Can I have a photo and share it on my Blog? No worries if not!” “Corse you can Dave. You’ve done so much for you. We’ll never forget what you’ve done for your Son. We owe you such a lot!”

So glad to be there.
So glad to have, for a short while at least, become interweaved with the story of Alice and Ben and Sophia.
So glad to have witnessed a new life start her journey in the world.

Believe me I know that not all stories have happy endings.
I know that many will, this Christmas, face grief which seems insurmountable.
But for now I pass on a story that speaks of HOPE.

And say that, for me at least, my thoughts and prayers will continue to be with this little ball of ‘WISDOM’.

David Savaged by a Collie: Halloween Weekend Horror!

Teeth bared and ready to bite!

Teeth bared and ready to bite!

I left the house at 7:40am on Sunday morning. No time to be up, especially on my 23rd Wedding Anniversary. The streets were quiet, it was a bright, crisp autumnal morning and I was heading to BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester for a radio interview about the Chaplain’s Blog. A chance to plug the blog and celebrate the fact that it has had over 100,000 views.

I arrived at the car park and met Radio Presenter and all round good egg Malcolm “Boing Boing” Boyden who took me into the building. All was going well- or so I thought. What could go wrong?

I was on the Sunday Show with Michael Collie and the interview started OK, just catching up on the news of the blog and saying how well the blog was doing.

But then the Collie turned…

“You are being a free PR machine for the Hospital. Shouldn’t you as a Chaplain be standing in the middle of this not just plugging one side of the story?”

It is, of course, a good point. And we batted ideas about for another couple of minutes. A bit like a boxing match with some body blows to me. I came back with a left hook and a jab. And it was quite exhilarating!

I left the studio and after the next song, whilst listening in the car, Michael read out two or three entries from my blog and said “Do you think I was too hard on him?”

You can listen to the whole interview here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01jm9gt just slide the tab to 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Now I am being unfair to Michael. He is a nice man, a great radio presenter, and a does a great show. And the point of this post is not to criticise him or the media. Far from it!

The point is to show up the fact that:

YOU CAN’T BELIEVE ALL THE HEADLINES YOU READ!!!

Even those on my blog!

If I had made the title of this post “David on Michael Collie Radio Show” then you might not have read this far! We seem to be attracted to some types of headlines and not to others.

I think there is a better way. I really do believe in the power of Good News. I think that every glimmer of light given off by it can change the world. I think there is a need for a culture of good news in the NHS, and in the country.

So if you feel tricked, or even sad, that this wasn’t a story of me being mauled by a ferocious hound, then there might be a lesson to learn.

And if you were concerned that I have been hurt…well thank you.

Let’s change the world one small act of love, one good deed, or one piece of good news at a time – to paraphrase Mother Theresa.

Oh and finally, THANK YOU MICHAEL COLLIE AND PRODUCER LIZZIE LANE, for continuing to plug the blog. I always appreciate my time with you!

We Remember You in Our Prayers

prayer

Whether you are a praying person or not, it’s good to be remembered for nice things. In a recent letter to me David and Joyce Burton said this:

“To the Chaplaincy,
Good News Stories.

We are very grateful for the wonderful expertise and great kindness which we received from the Staff at Worcester, Malvern and Kidderminster Hospitals.
We are receiving, in David’s case, treatment at the eye, cardiac and dermatology clinics.
Joyce has been attending the eye clinic for sixteen years and is now being treated for cancer by very kind and helpful staff in Haematology.
We appreciate and admire all that we receive from the staff at these clinics.
We remember the hospital staff in our prayers.
Yours very sincerely,

David and Joyce Burton”

I think this is wonderful. This lovely couple have received but are also giving back. I believe in prayer, but I also know the power of good thoughts and positive energy. And David and Joyce are only the tip of the iceberg.

So next time you get some hospital bashing, nurse bashing, doctor bashing, manager bashing, or whatever bashing you succumb to- then think of these and many others, sending out good vibes to us all in the Trust.

So long and thanks for all…Fish

hitchigher

My colleague Rev Andrew Fisher (pictured above!) will be moving from being Chaplain at the Alexandra Hospital in August. I will miss him as a colleague, and his friendship and support. He has worked tirelessly at the Alex for the last 4 years, and has made a difference!

Here is a comment which came from patients about his work:

“Thank you Andrew for all the comfort and compassion you showed our family after N’s passing. We were all very moved by your gentle approach to all that mattered to us. Thank you once again.”In times of need, I know Andrew has been there for patients, relatives and staff. The church he is going to is lucky to have him and our loss is there gain. He will be a hard act to follow and I, personally, wish you well Andrew.