For one of my theology courses, I have the task of interviewing at least one ministry professional and/or end of life lay care professional per unit; ideally, this is meant to demonstrate some above and beyond level of commitment to the course material to my course instructor, and more to the point, it’s probably meant to reinforce ideas learned from the material itself in order to cement a learned understanding of the doctrine.
However, that just hasn’t been… exactly what’s come of it.
“I want us to keep in touch.” That was what Chaplain P said after I pushed the ‘end’ button on my recorder. “I want to keep in touch over this summer and have you shadow our chaplains after your surgery.”
Later, she emailed me into a cc’d email to a colleague at the hospice I’m already volunteering at. I replied saying ‘thank you’ and told her I was in the process of transcribing out interview. She replied back. “You have the heart for this work. You definitely have the desire and the compassion for the area you are pursuing.”
I’ve been enrolled in my palliative care course in my theology program for just a little over a month, over which time I’ve done several interviews with professionals in the spiritual health ministry discipline in the trauma, intensive care, end of life and funerary fields, all of whom have not-so-subtly pushed the envelope about social trends of homophobia, transphobia, classism and the relationship between human value and supernatural work ethic.
It’s been a challenge analyzing those view points in the lens of the course, which of course wants me to read spiritual autobiographies of men who were privileged enough to die of debilitating disorders that did not break their minds with the help of several hundred thousands of dollars’ worth of in-home medical equipment and rotating caretakers–and G-d, of course–and to enforce the logic of healthcare directives that prioritize the long term impacts on the immortal soul over the insignificant trifles of the mortal flesh.
Challenging, because I mostly because I find agreeing with these theologians, and their theology. And I despise their churches.
These past two weeks have been a whirlwind. There are some fun and very privileged opportunities that I’ve been able to secure, and I’m very excited to share those here in the next coming weeks; but one of those things I can share right now is my StoryCorps session with the inimitable S. Elizabeth of Unquiet Things, Haute Macabre and, of course, Skeletor is Love fame.
But more than that, Sarah is an incredible friend and ally to me, to our local death community, and to our intersecting communities, which is exactly why I invited her to be my proctor for our local public radio station’s call for persons looking to share their stories about the wake of Pulse; this was cheekily called ‘Taking Your Pulse,’ which is a much more affable moniker than ‘Death in the Gay Den’ is, but I think it hits the same tone in terms of being reflective while still feeling the aftershocks of disbelief.
This post is a slightly modified version of an essay I submit for my theology course; the name of my late priest has been censored for his privacy and for mine. If you recognize the man in the photograph or the church, and/or if you know who my parents are, and/or if you know where I am attending school, I’m imploring you NOT to make any contact that would identify myself or the content of this post.
Over the course of the terminal weeks of January and the start of February, my parents have sent me at least a dozen shipments of large boxes containing clothes, objects, memorabilia, photo books, actual books, trinkets and clippings. In one of these boxes was a tabletop font (a small, crude ceramic angel holding a baby Christ enveloped around a manger) and an envelope containing a taped together newspaper obituary, a photograph and a note written on an index card.