Hospice of the Valley chaplain Bob Barrett

Hospice of the Valley chaplain Bob Barrett holds zoom presentations on coping with grief and loss.

The spiritual support that chaplains offer at end of life has always been an essential component of Hospice of the Valley’s holistic care. 

This pandemic has underscored their impact — in bringing comfort to patients and families, and also in guiding our community through uncharted waters.

In the last two months, chaplains Stephen Gardner and Bob Barrett have both held virtual presentations on coping with grief and loss — feelings that are magnified by social isolation. 

Nearly 200 people registered for the free Zoom events, including many who run or work in facilities that banned visitations to prevent the virus from spreading.

“The pandemic has really heightened our awareness of how spiritual support is needed now more than ever, and especially when spiritual care is harder than ever to deliver,” Bob said. 

“At a time when family and friends want to draw closer together to face this crisis, this health crisis has enforced social distancing on us — the exact opposite of what people who have faced tough times for long centuries have done,” he continued.

Bob praised stressed family and professional caregivers, saying: “Be sure to reinforce your own positive self-talk —  you are doing all that you can and your efforts make a difference.”

To stressed spouses suffering burnout, Stephen warns: “There’s a huge need to take care of oneself, to make proper investments in our own mental and spiritual well-being, if we’re going to be good caregivers.”

As we celebrate Chaplain’s Week, Oct. 25-31, we are grateful for each of Hospice of the Valley’s 16 chaplains, who provide added strength to overcome challenges together and find silver linings. 

They work long days, odd hours and lots of weekends. Whenever a need arises, they answer the call.

David Kaminski joined the agency in 1998 and serves as a beacon of light for colleagues, as much as the families he serves.

 “David comforts with amazing grace, a timely sense of presence and an intuitive knowing of when people are at their most vulnerable,” says care team leader Deborah DiBiase. “He is such a positive inspiration to so many, especially in these uncertain times we are all experiencing.”

Marge Lane worked as a nurse before discovering her passion to help hospice patients living the last chapter of their lives. David Wilsterman is affectionately called an “emotional and spiritual rock” for his steadfast guidance and support before and, even more so, during the pandemic.

  And Cristiano Artigas put on his mask and rushed to baptize a patient after receiving an emotional call from the man’s sister. The patient died the next day. “We are privileged to do this work,” Cristiano says simply.

For the time being, much of the comfort chaplains provide will take a different shape. Instead of face-to-face conversations and a gentle brush of the hand, they are embracing technology to connect with loved ones and each other.

“It’s very special to be able to reach so many people in the community through our virtual presentations,” Bob shares. “We love to support our community with the same commitment we extend to our patients, families and caregivers.”

Lin Sue Cooney is director of community engagement for Hospice of the Valley. Information: hov.org.