Those of us who have had the chance to work at the bedside likely hold vivid memories of patients clinging to their important stuff. Prayer beads. Sacred books. Blankets woven by a beloved. Pictures of grandchildren. We know these items hold an important place in the healing process.
In the Catholic tradition we rely on the simplest stuff of life to communicate what is most sacred. We use water to bless, oil to strengthen, bread and wine to connect us to the life of God. We use all of our senses and physical gestures — an embrace to show peace or a touch to mark healing.
We also use important moments of time and rituals to mark sacred transformations, from the blessing of a new building to the celebration of marriage. Our “sacraments” serve as outward, visible signs of an invisible sacred reality. They can mark a bigger understanding of reality than what we see in front of us.
In the clinical realm we have clear chances to deepen the sacramental tradition, as we claim the sacredness of the bodily world that is part of our care. But as a leader you deepen this tradition as well in your posture toward the administrative tasks of your work, as you sign an important document with reverence, take a reflective moment before a planning session, open a door with gentle care, or thoughtfully pause before you hit the “send” button. Even your small gestures can mark moments of sacred transformation, when you seal a contract with a handshake, lead an orientation session, or host a good-bye party.
Pause and Ponder: Every day you have a chance to participate in the “sacramental tradition” at your organization. Today let some work ritual, some small movement get your attention as pointing to something bigger than it is. Notice this and share your awareness with a co-worker or friend, or write about it in your journal.
The photographer asked hospice patients “What would you hold” as a representation of their lives. Consider, What would you hold? Why?
About the Image
Image “Hands of Kathleen” ©Copyright 2015 Elaine Zelker, Used with Permission from the Hand-Some Journey Project. Zelker photographed the hands of residents in an extended care facility as they held an object representative or their lives.