I am pleased to publish a guest blog to recognize and honor Solari’s dedicated spiritual leaders who work with our patients and families. It’s not always easy to find “the right words” to guide people on their end-of-life journey, but these men and women have a gift for doing exactly that. Thank you!
By Matthew Stephens, Spiritual Coordinator, Houston Solari Hospice Care
Spiritual leaders, pastoral care counselors, educators and care providers of numerous faiths, philosophies and traditions come together in a show of unity this week, October 21-27, in honor of “Pastoral Care Week.” At Solari Hospice Care, we are proud to recognize the work of our dedicated team of chaplains from all spiritual denominations and practices who support our hospice care patients and their loved ones.
The first “Pastoral Care Week” was held in October 1985. Since then, it has grown beyond national to international proportions. This year’s theme, “Giving Voice: Joining Together to Empower, Express and Educate,” highlights the need to find unity in the midst of diversity. It recognizes the contributions made by spiritual leaders in numerous settings throughout the world, including hospitals, prisons, businesses, industries, long-term care facilities, pastoral counseling centers, hospices, military settings, nursing homes, corporations, congregations of sisters, priests and brothers, schools and universities.
The word compassion means “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Solari’s mission to provide compassionate care isn’t limited to physical and medical care, but also encompasses a full realm of emotional and spiritual concerns. In fact, when Solari patients are asked, “Do you want to see a chaplain?” the large majority of them do.
Each year, chaplains at Solari Hospice Care make hundreds of calls and visits to help people face their end-of-life journey. It’s a pivotal time in the lives of these men and women – a time when faith can be tested or strengthened, when reassurance may be needed, or when questions arise. Why is this happening to me now? What will happen to me after I die? Will my family survive my loss? Will I be missed? How will I be remembered? What was the meaning of my life? Our role isn’t to give advice, but to respect and nurture the individual’s belief system and teachings. Sometimes, we pray or meditate with patients. Oftentimes, we simply listen. Always, we offer words of comfort and support.
Our spiritual caregivers at Solari bring many gifts to the process of healing and wholeness. Patients may have strong affiliation with religious institutions. When this is the case, we make efforts to bridge this connection. Solari’s doors are open to all members of the clergy and other spiritual leaders. For example, spiritual services — such as communion or last rites — also can be arranged. Likewise, we can arrange for guided meditations, aromatherapy or whatever practice helps the patient achieve peace in their final days.
In addition, Solari’s chaplains reach out to family members and loved ones of our patients to meet their spiritual needs. Our Inpatient Hospice Centers in both Houston and Las Vegas have a serene chapel room for spiritual reflection. Bereavement services are provided following the death of the patient through counseling and free weekly grief support groups. We also hold annual “Celebration of Life” memorial services. In Las Vegas, this event will take place on Sunday, Nov. 4, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the beautiful botanical gardens of the Springs Preserve, 333 W. Valley View Blvd. In Houston, we will be gathering on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the historical St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, 8915 Timberside Drive.
When people find out what I do for a living, they often comment that I must have a sad, depressing job. Actually, it’s incredibly uplifting and rewarding to reach out to people at one of the most vulnerable and intimate periods in their lives. It’s a humbling experience to sit at the bedside of a patient whose death is imminent or hold the hand of a family member who is mourning. Like so many other spiritual leaders being honored during “Pastoral Care Week,” I feel grateful to have the privilege of helping hospice patients and families, easing their final transition and soothing their pain.