Touching death, touching life...

You think you know, but you have no idea... 

I started my chaplaincy internship last week. Needless to say between getting home from overseas on Sunday only to begin this next adventure bright and early Monday has made for a whirlwind of a week. Meeting new people. Waking up early. Eating breakfast. Seems my life for the next three months is going to be more similar to life before seminary than seminary itself. That being said, I hope to write at least once a week. But given the amount of emotion and vulnerability I'll be experiencing, it might not be much more than that.

On our first day, the current residents and the staff gathered around the new interns (myself included) to commission us. My previous experience with the historical practice of laying on of hands has only ever been with people I know. People who love me out of that knowledge. Yet here I was, surrounded by complete strangers who made it a priority to give me (and the rest of the new interns) their blessing. I had the sense that this was the right place to be.

As the week went on, experience after experience reasserted that sense. Praying with patients. Conversations with residents. Every new encounter reminded me why I first decided to spend this summer in such an intensely emotional environment. Yet by the time we hit day four, the overwhelming task in front of me started to become clear, especially in one single, solitary moment...

...the morgue...

Nothing can prepare you for the chill, the smell, the fluorescent lighting. There is no way to get yourself psyched up for stepping into a cooler that serves as a temporary stopping point for the recently deceased. Yet sometimes you have to open the door and step inside. You have to unzip the bag and stare into the abyss of mortality...

Did I just say that? Yes, yes I did.

We live in a culture that avoids death at nearly any cost. Yet there are those who strive to sit with the reality of death, loss, and grief. It's not easy. In fact, it's grueling. But ask anyone who has suffered a loss and they'll tell you how hard it can be to find someone to join in their agony. Sure, the first couple of months sympathy can often be easy to find. But as time moves on, one is usually left to face the continuation of grief in solitude.

This summer, I'm doing an internship as a hospital chaplain. Sadly, this is why it's been over a month since my last post. Part of my responsibility, my privilege, is to spend time with people in what can frequently be some vulnerable situations. Granted, I also get to share a lot of happy moments. Laughter. Joy. Celebration. Regardless, this kind of work has left me pretty tired, and so I apologize for the gap in writing. My hope is to get back to it on a more regular basis in the coming weeks.

As always, thanks for the love and support.

Michael