A Jewish Chaplain

Sometimes the chaplain is the only one who can mourn.

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Reflecting On The Loss

“Oh, thank you so much. That was so wonderful,” Doris said. I think she was relieved that my prayer validated her and did not ask for reconciliation with her mother. We continued to talk, about her husband and her son, and she faced them with equanimity when they returned from lunch. I said goodbye. When I came back after my own lunch, the family had left. I returned to Selma’s side, hardly knowing what to do or say. I mourned her yiddisha neshama, her life that had gone so wrong, her imminent death that would come without love or grief. I wished her peace and left.

Selma was extubated later that day and died a few hours later. The visit with Doris affected me profoundly and I spent some time analyzing my reactions to it. I also had to consider whether I had helped Doris as much as I might have, what else I might have done or said, or what I perhaps should not have done at all.

Four years later, I still think about Selma and I still mourn her. Sometimes, the chaplain is the only one who can mourn.

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Margaret Frenkel Goldstein completed CPE in 2004, and earned an MS in Jewish Studies from Spertus College in Chicago. She is a community chaplain in Queens, NY for eight months a year. The rest of the year she works in Jerusalem as a volunteer at Shaarei Zedek Hospital.