Wrestling with the Flow

As Jews we wrestle with God. I was wondering what would happen if we actually let go. To be in flow with God. To instinctively discern what is life giving and releasing that which does not serve.

I work as a hospice Chaplain. I believe that we are all called to sacred work even in what appears to be the ordinary. It manifests when we are open to receiving and listening to our life’s purpose. We can be financially secure making a living yet to make a sacred living that is a true Mitzvah. 

I wasn’t born a chaplain. In fact, the only chaplain I ever heard of was Fr. Mulcahy from MASH. It was a healing road, a crossing over of tearful waters, that led me to chaplaincy. 

In Clinical Pastoral Education one of the most excruciating lessons is a loss line. 

It is the practice of listing all the painful things that happened in your life and sharing them aloud with your peers. The screams and tears that came out of us…I sense my colleagues and I had a few hip sockets out of place after each exercise. I reflect on Vander Kolk’s writings in The Body Keeps the Score. 

The beauty of healing is recognizing that this human condition is a communal one. We are not alone. It is in the sharing of our wounds that we can help others heal and in turn heal ourselves. 

My first experience in the ICU was visiting my mom when I was 9 years old. She was 34 years old and encased in an oxygen tent with tubes coming out of her. I remember sitting in the hospital chapel with my father and my brother listening to my father pray and plead for my mother’s life.

Upon reflection, Dad had a very small understanding of God. His theology was contractual and he was only in relationship if his wishes were granted. Perhaps dad saw God as a genie. 

My mom died, was resuscitated, left in a vegetative state, and then unplugged. It was truly horrific. I would see these traumatic images replay at night as recurring dreams after her death. God and my mother died in June of 1975.

Sometimes you need to be an Atheist to the God of your understanding. 

40 years later I found myself rounding in the ICU. God has a sense of humor calling a secular Jewish woman working as a sales professional to chaplaincy. 

There was a transition. I went through a painful divorce, my father was placed on hospice care, and there was a spiritual curiosity that was bubbling up inside of me. 

My father’s death progression was much different than my mother’s. He was in his own home, comfortable, and at peace. I sat with him in his final days. I was able to be present and hold his hand. He was nonverbal and unresponsive. I told him I loved him, and it was okay to let go when he was ready. Looking back, I was not just his daughter I was also his chaplain. 

When I eulogized my father at his funeral service, I felt like I belonged up there. At the cemetery I had one arm around each of my nieces comforting them while they cried. I had been here before. It was an odd deja vu bearing witness to it like I was watching a movie from afar. 

My sales job was not serving me anymore and I found myself exploring the idea of selling hospice services. I attended a death/dying hospice seminar in VA that led to enrollment in seminary and moved me towards religious formation. It was there that I learned about chaplaincy and the next part of my journey began. 

Sitting with my patients is a sacred gift. It is in this stillness that I experience God. The messages/messengers they surround me. They teach me that it is okay to not know. To experience discomfort, to wrestle, and to eventually let go. It is the simplicity of the flow.

 

About Chaplain Cindy Tanz 1 Article
Cindy Tanz works as a Clinical Chaplain/Bereavement Coordinator for Serenity Hospice PA in Bensalem PA. She is a member of (CPSP) College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy and completed (CPE) Clinical Pastoral Education training at RWJ Barnabas Health Hamilton NJ.   Cindy journeys with patients and families of all faiths through end stage disease progression celebrating life, advocating comfort, and acknowledging grief. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Reiki Master, and Animal Assisted Therapist.  Cindy lives in Southern New Jersey and is a member of Congregation Kol Ami, Cherry Hill, NJ, and Main Line Reform Temple, Wynnewood, PA.

3 Comments

  1. Cindy,
    What a stirring and moving account…….
    I surmise that your life experience contributes to your expertise in hospice care!! Yasher koach!!

  2. I know Cindy from her CPE courses at RWJ Hospital. She is the one of the most caring people. She listens when you talk to her. If you ask, she gives you honest advice.
    She becomes your friend and then you love her.

  3. What a beautiful article. I’m so blessed to know you. You brought me back to the deaths of my parents and the pain now, is lessened by time( is that a letting go to allow us to go on?) It’s comforting to be a part of a community, to that, I’ll never let go. Hugs, Judy

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