Every time I open the door to a patient's room it's as if I drew a book off a library shelf at random. At first glance, I don't know what genre of story I am going to experience. It is sometimes a tragedy; that's true. But just as often it's a heroic exploit or a romantic comedy.
There are always plot twists and unexpected rescues in these human narratives. If one listens carefully, there is sadness too, as well as nostalgia for some past moment in time. And yet, each journey is defined by its traveler. Each story crafted by its author. They write not on paper with pen and ink; rather, their bodies record their adventures. Each face is stamped, each wrinkle and scar hinting at another chapter of their tale.
I have never found two stories the same.
I am privileged to hear these stories. And yet I know that I have grown much older in my two years as a chaplain. Every story I hear becoming in some unintended way, part of my own consciousness. I often reflect on the choices these patients have made, or how the outcome might have changed if not for a small delay or an inconvenience that sprung upon them. Most of all, I wonder what chapters these men and women are writing now.
I wish I could recount the stories I've heard, but the code of the chaplain does not grant such a wish, (and neither does federal law). Besides, these are not epics to be read aloud by a third party. They are best delivered by the author themself.
So I invite my patients to jot down their rememberings so that others may glean some specific wisdom or reaffirm their own life lessons. Some patients do, many do not. Still, I enjoin them all.
And so I encourage you as well, dear friend. What tales can you tell? Which of your life chapters should you be sharing right now; before you arrive at a hospital, and a chaplain knocks at your door?