If you have ever walked the hallways of the Joyce Goldenberg Hospice Inpatient Residence, chances are that you have seen Ed Norris. As a Covenant Hospice Chaplain, Norris provides emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families, who are dealing with end-of-life issues. “We don’t push religion on them,” said Norris. “We simply sit down and share a cup of coffee with them, and the door just opens.”
Norris, and the Covenant Hospice Chaplains, are skilled at opening that door to spirituality. He recalls a female patient who was really unhappy, and was despondent with the staff and volunteers at the Residence. “I took my name badge off, and started delivering her food tray,” said Norris. “In just a few days, she really opened up and began sharing with me. Eventually, I told her that I was the chaplain and we really made a break through; but it had to be on her terms.” In the past three years at Covenant Hospice, Norris believes that he has learned a lot about spirituality. “I have learned that I have to be flexible, and that spirituality is an individual thing,” said Norris. “I have learned a lot about God’s grace throughout my time here at Covenant.”
As part of its comprehensive approach to care, Covenant Hospice Chaplains are available to provide spiritual counseling and support to patients, family members, and loved ones upon request. They can also provide assistance to find clergy of a patient’s denomination. However, many people are surprised to learn that Covenant Hospice Chaplains are also available to perform funerals, weddings and even baptisms. “It’s just part of what we do,” said Norris. The families often look surprised, and according to Norris, “They often tell me that they did not know that we offered these services.”
Norris estimates that he has performed over 50 funerals for Covenant Hospice patients over his three years with the not-for-profit organization. “I have become more aware of the need for this service as I find more and more patients who, for some reason or another, do not have a church connection,” said Norris. He feels honored when patients or families ask him to perform the funeral. “I consider it a privilege, and a chance to get to know the patient and the family even more,” said Norris.
Norris also believes that performing funerals is a method of seeking personal closure. “Many times I really become part of the patient’s family, and being asked to perform the funeral is a good way for me to end the relationship,” said Norris. “In addition to the closure, I feel good that I was able to do something for the family at a really difficult time.”
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