Where Does Your Spiritual TripTik Take You?

Written by WMCN Editor on . Posted in Local

vernbCouples spend decades doing everything together until declining health prompts a move into an assisted living facility. They take turns caring for one another as their health ebbs and they prepare for their final journeys.

As a spiritual caregiver for Emmanuel Hospice, Pastor Vern Bareman regularly visits couples in this situation. His conversations with spouses of patients who have recently died can swing from profound grief to gratitude that the struggles have ended.

"Some of our patients are ready to go, while others are fighting to hang on to life," Bareman says. "Coming to terms with letting go can be hard for both patients and their families."

Sometimes our understanding of the afterlife can offer a tremendous sense of peace and grace during a difficult time.

"A person's faith is a place where they can go to not feel so alone," Bareman says. "Everyone has something that brings them meaning in life. The reflection of one's own purpose within their personal world view can bring on a sense of a companionship and love at the end."

There's a big difference, Bareman notes, between being religious and being spiritual. He contends that all of us are spiritual beings, even if we may not ascribe to a particular religion.

Emmanuel Hospice's spiritual care team counsels people of diverse faiths to help patients and their families find solace and strength in their individual faith traditions. Bareman sees it as his responsibility to meet people wherever they are on their individual spiritual journeys as they are facing the end of life.

"All of us have a spiritual TripTik," Bareman says. "We all have some kind of understanding of where we started and where we are going to end, but each of us takes a different path for our journey.

"My role as a spiritual caregiver is not to take my spiritual TripTik and put it over yours. Mine is to follow a person through his or her own journey. We all find a sense of peace and comfort in different places."

Bareman often begins the conversation with a new hospice patient by doing an assessment of where they are spiritually. He will ask: Where do you go to find strength outside yourself? What are the things you do to find that strength that you cannot pull from yourself? The answers are as individual as the patient. It might be music for one, attending church for another, meeting friends or any variety of things.

"At Emmanuel Hospice, we honor everyone's faith journey – whatever that may be and wherever they are on that journey," Bareman says. "It's a very patient-centered approach."

Bareman also asks new patients a question that many families find surprising: How do you want to live? It's a misconception, he says, that hospice is all about dying. At Emmanuel Hospice, the care team works with families to enhance the quality of life and ensure every moment is meaningful.

The next step, Bareman says, is working with the patient to determine what kinds of things bring them joy – and then finding ways to connect them with the things that make them smile and laugh. That might be a special dinner with family, a trip to a favorite fishing hole or afternoons filled with music.

"Even as we approach the end of life, we need to have things that keep us looking forward and anticipating," Bareman says. "At the end of life, you can't look to the future without embracing the past.

"Where we've been is an important aspect of where we're going. On our life journey, our TripTik keeps going until we turn the final page – then we're finally home."
Author Information
WMCN Editor
Author: WMCN EditorWebsite: http://MannaMedia.org
The West Michigan Christian News desires to glorify God while providing global, national, and local news to the West Michigan community. The West Michigan Christian News is a non-denominational, Christ-centered, advertiser-supported monthly newspaper published in Grand Rapids, Michigan by Manna Media Inc. It is unabashedly biased in its Christian presentation of news and views. It is also dedicated to the promotion of Christian unity by focusing on the 95 percent of the Christian faith on which all Christians agree while refusing to get drawn into controversies about the 5 percent on which we might differ.

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