When life is overflowing with poignant encounters, it’s okay that we can’t contain them all, writes Winnipeg hospital worker Doug Koop
I spend a big part of my workweek in the company of patients on the acute and critical care wards of a big and busy downtown hospital. A lot of people cross my path, including families and an ever-evolving cast of medical professionals and support workers.
The hospital hosts an endless flow of human need attended to by our society’s most affordable idea of good health care. All the hustle and bustle looks chaotic, but underneath there are routines that keep the place running 24/7/365.
Living in it can sometimes feel duty-driven, and a certain lethargy can dog my visitations. Yet there are also many occasions when I tap into the flow of the Spirit and am privileged to come alongside people in the midst of troubling experiences and be intimately involved in situations where love and sorrow mingle in sad (yet satisfying) embrace.
Not long ago I reflected on a day peppered with a number of difficult end-of-life situations. I recognized how I’d been swimming in emotionally roiling waters, connecting with active grief as a companion caregiver. These were very rich experiences, demanding but meaningful. They mattered.
It enlivens my spirit when this happens. It is invigorating.
What struck me, however, was how quickly the poignancy of these encounters can fade. Faces and names used so familiarly tend to slip from my memory within a week, if only because I’m rubbing shoulders (and souls) with yet another set of persons in distress. Once again I will find myself immersed in the harrowing experiences of others; again I’ll be sorrowing, laughing, grieving and reminiscing in full measure with people in turmoil.
These brief but meaningful intersections in our respective life journeys are true and real, moments of profound connection. They show that it’s possible to bring comforting touches of transcendence into the morass of harsh facts-on-the-ground that greet us each day.
While I often wish I could remember the details better, it’s quite okay that they fade. My brain is so saturated with the fullness of experience that it cannot contain it. This is an abundant life. My cup runneth over.
Doug Koop is a spiritual health practitioner at HSC Winnipeg, a major trauma and tertiary care hospital.