I have found most hospice patients happy to see the chaplain, or least receptive. At worst, distracted or indifferent. But I once had a patient who was downright hostile, and made it clear that my visit was something to be checked off with as much dispatch, and as little engagement, as possible. He laid down on the bed in his worn leather jacket and dirty baseball cap, answering my assessment questions peremptorily: yes, he’d made peace with his children; yes, he’d said his goodbyes. He was fine, thanks, And that seemed to be all—until I learned that he was a retired union organizer.
I mentioned that some of my Dad’s uncles helped to organize the West Virginia coal mines. After a rich silence, he said softly, “That was back when you could get shot for doing this. Those guys left all the cushy jobs to us.” Before I left, we held hands and prayed together.
Scott Robinson is an interfaith minister, musician, and spiritual director in Philadelphia. Hear his music at www.mandalaband.net.