Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More with author Maryann Miller

This morning, we continue our interview with author Maryann Miller as she discusses her calling in hospital ministry. We also continue the excerpt from chapter one of her book "One Small Victory."

Q. How and why did you get involved in hospital ministry?

A. My involvement with hospital ministry started in part from visiting friends in the hospital who told me I had a way of bringing an extra dose of comfort when I visited. I also spent time supporting a friend through a long crisis with her mother, and that friend also said my presence with her was a great help. I realized that I had an ability to handle crisis well and enjoyed helping people, so I decided to join the hospital ministry team at our church. We were trained informally by a woman who had Clinical Pastoral Education experience, so I learned a lot then. Much later, I went on to take Clinical Pastoral Education myself, so I could work as a hospital chaplain.

Q. It’s not an easy task, yet you seem to truly enjoy this calling. What advice do you have for someone thinking about joining this field?

A. Chaplaincy is first of all not necessarily about religion or saving souls. That is the biggest misconception most new students to CPE have, especially if they come from a strong evangelical church. It is also not about you. It is about the person you are visiting. You can’t go into a room or into a situation with an agenda. A chaplain’s role is most crucial at times when patients or families are facing difficult situations and they have feelings or issues they cannot talk to anyone else about. Being able to be quiet, to listen, to be intuitive are great assets to being a chaplain.

Q. What is the most rewarding part of this ministry? What is the most difficult part?

A. The most rewarding part of the ministry is knowing that you may have helped someone on a very deep level. There is a sense of peace that comes over patients when you validate their feelings, when concerns can be articulated in a prayer if they request it. There have been times when I have felt the power of God so strongly in a room it took my breath away. The most difficult part is dealing with untimely death, especially children. There is no way you can bring any sense of comfort or understanding to parents who have just lost a child. You just stand there powerless in the midst of that pain. But you stand there, none the less, and embrace them and their pain.

Q. You have two blogs. How do they differ and how are they similar?

A. The Many Faces of Grief has been focused on grieving issues, while It’s Not All Gravy is a general commentary and can go in many directions. I started the grief blog primarily because grieving issues are such an important part of "One Small Victory," but I don’t know if I will continue that one for much longer. It seems to be one that has run a course, so to speak. But the other, because it is so open, can go on indefinitely.


Jenny pulled away and saw a mirror image of her own pain reflected in the murky depths of her son’s eyes. They were so dark they were nearly black and defined the adage, “windows to the soul.”

Scott wouldn’t like it if he knew she could see so much. He thinks he’s such an expert at hiding beneath layers of loud music or sullen remoteness. But he’s always there, just waiting to be discovered.

She wanted to say something. Ease his pain. But he broke contact before she could formulate appropriate words.

Again, Jenny didn’t know what to do. She was the mother. She was supposed to know. She was supposed to take care of this child. That child. If only she hadn’t let Michael go camping that weekend. If only. God, how perfect the world would be if we could go back and change things.

The agony of loss cut so deep she turned away from Scott for a moment to gulp in air. Was it always going to be so hard? And who was supposed to take care of her while she was trying to take care of what was left of her family?

She felt a light touch on her arm. “It’ll be okay, Mom.”

God. She wanted to scream. It was not going to be okay. Nothing was okay. But she had to pretend. If not for herself, for Scott. She forced the anger into a far corner of her heart.

“Did I wake you?” she asked.

“No.” He shrugged. “Couldn’t sleep.”

“I couldn’t either.” She tried a tentative smile, and her emotional burden shifted ever so slightly.

She reached up and touched Scott’s face, feeling the soft stubble of immature beard. “You need a shave,” she said. But the message was, ‘we’ll be okay.’

Though Scott pulled away, his eyes said, ‘thank you.’

“Jenny?” a voice called from down the hall.

Giving him another brief smile, she hurried into the living room and almost collided with Carol.

“There you are.”

The naked anguish on her friend’s face scraped against Jenny’s emotions. “Where else would I be?”

The slight woman froze, her brown eyes wide and pain-filled, and Jenny immediately regretted snapping. She seemed to have so little control over her reactions since The Phone Call last night. That’s what it’ll always be, she thought in some weird twist of mind. The Phone Call. Forever in capital letters.

Tomorrow, we will find out more about Maryann ... including a secret most of her friends probably aren't aware of. Plus, we'll have a guest post from this great author!

Please join us.


JacquelineSeewald said...


This sounds like a wonderful book! Very honest and real. I took care of my mother, nursing her through her fatal illness when I was twenty-three and she was also relatively young. It was difficult and heartbreaking. The same with my father many years later. Hospital ministry is very valuable and worthy.

Jacqueline Seewald

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for stopping by Jacqueline. You did a wonderful thing for your mother and your father in caring for them as they took their last journey. That can be such a difficult, yet blessed time.

Lillie Ammann said...

As someone who has benefited from the services of hospital chaplains when both of my parents died, I appreciate what you do.

pve design said...

I truly believe that we need more empathy, and hugs in the medical world when dealing with the ill.
Those that do this are giving themselves which is priceless.