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Hospice chaplains provide care and comfort

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By Koertni Blackketter
“As a chaplain, I’m part clergy and part philosopher,” said Loyal Frisbie-Knudsen, chaplain for Haven Hospice’s Gainesville home team. “Some of what I do in trying to serve people is related to religion – particular prayers, sacraments or liturgy – that’s the clergy. Part of what I do is talk about life and listen about life, hearing folks’ take on what it’s meant to be alive. That’s like being a philosopher. Yet another part focuses on the spiritual things a person encounters, which can be related to faith, religion and God, but might also be related to things like art, nature or relationships – things that aren’t bound by any kind of ideology but by experience. Those things are of the human spirit. That’s what I would call being a chaplain.”
The Haven Hospice chaplains acknowledge that spirituality differs from person to person. They provide care and guidance to all cultures and beliefs among patients and their families, as well as to Haven employees.
Once a week Chiefland’s chaplain Janice Kirk holds a team meeting with some of her colleagues to keep everyone up to date on the patients.
“We have a discussion about what is going on with each case so we can confer on how to help them,” Kirk said. “And we have bereavement during that time so we can grieve and memorialize our lost patients. I light a candle for them, so we have a time to remember and honor them.”
Kirk emphasizes the importance of devoting special time toward remembering lost loved ones. She is responsible for organizing and leading the two memorial services that Haven holds each year in Chiefland.
“We contact the family members of all those who have passed in the last six months,” Kirk said. “We invite the families to the memorial for sacred literature and poems and things like that. It allows them to reunite with people that have taken care of their loved ones who have passed.”
Chaplains welcome the opportunity to hear stories and learn what has brought meaning to a patient’s life. They encourage patients to talk about life’s journey, family, dignity, suffering, love, goodbyes, unfinished business, beliefs, fears, afterlife and achievements.
“I find a lot of people have the same end of life issues,” Kirk said. “They will be concerned with what is going to happen to them before they die, or they get a burning desire to tell someone something that they did that was wrong to get it off of their chest. They are estranged from someone and need to reconcile. So we often facilitate these things. I take care of the pathway that people need to have opened in order to get to the next life.”
Chaplains offer a safe place to share hopes, fears and prayers during the end of one’s spiritual journey.
About Haven Hospice:
Haven Hospice is a community-based not-for-profit hospice organization providing services since 1979 and licensed in Florida since 1980. Haven is North Florida's expert in end-of-life and palliative care, receiving national recognition as a Circle of Life Award Recipient from the American Hospital Association for its excellence and innovation. Haven has also been recognized as a Florida Pacesetter for its leadership in promoting advance directives. For more than 30 years Haven has had the honor and privilege to serve over 60,000 patients and families in North Florida. For more information, go to www.havenhospice.org.