“You are Wonderful”: Learning How to Be Still
This year I have the privilege of interning at Arbor Acres. Arbor Acres, lovingly referred to as “the acres”, is a retirement community located just moments away from Wake Div. The community houses folks living independently in homes and apartments as well as persons living within skilled healthcare rooms or within the memory care center, Arborview.
This year I am serving as a chaplain at “the acres” – spending most of my time within the skilled healthcare and memory care centers. Before beginning my internship, I had no idea just how much my role as a chaplain in this space might stretch or transform me.
Over the course of the year I have found myself celebrating resident’s 100th birthdays, mourning with family at the loss of a loved one, hearing stories of life “back when”, creating meaningful artwork with folks burdened by memory loss and sharing in book studies with retired professors, beloved parents and grandparents, world travelers and a bunch of “ good ol’ clergy folk.”
In my time serving as a chaplain I have had the opportunity to walk into some of life’s most sacred moments with my residents: from offering the gift of communion, (bread crumbling and dripping, into the mouth of one no longer able to take the bread and wine into their own hands) to holding the hand of a family member as they anticipate the final moments of their loved one’s life.
In thinking back to these moments, I find myself feeling as if there was no way I could ever be prepared to offer the right words or the perfect, loving, healing gestures. Yet, in the moment all that was needed was my presence. Throughout the semester I have found myself challenged- surely, I have thought, my presence is not enough; I could not be enough.
Just a few days back I found myself navigating the hallways ArborView, the memory care center. As I greeted the residents and staff I heard that “Mrs. B”, one of the residents was, actively dying. This news shocked and saddened me. Hours of time I had spent, hand in hand, walking the halls with Mrs. B flashed before my eyes; I could all but hear her strong yet small voice repeating, “You are wonderful,” to me over and over again as if it were any other, regular, day.
Yet this day, as I walked into her room, normalcy was gone. As she lay, breathing heavy breaths beneath her beautiful blue blanket in her softly padded bed, I walked over in tears. I grabbed Mrs. B’s lotion and softly placed it on her hands and arms, offering her only my salty tears and silent presence. Replacing her lotion on her nightstand and preparing to leave the room, knowing it was the last time I would see her face, I finally felt as if my presence was enough. My presence reminded Mrs. B that she too was wonderful; her presence taught me that silence was okay.
In all of my learning and growing at the acres I have learned one of the most powerful lessons of my div school career: when to shut my mouth and just be. Sometimes it is in shutting our mouths, quieting our brains, and just being, that the face of God shines like never before, reminding us that we all are wonderful, just the way we are.
Megan Lindsey Snider is a third year student preparing to graduate and move to Jackson, MS to work at Galloway Memorial UMC