By Rev. Dr. Maxine Kaye, Chaplain
When I first saw her curly, blonde hair and winning smile, I thought she looked more like a cheerleader than the bi-polar patient I had expected to visit on J-Ward. “Lisa” had arrived at the County Hospital after having leapt onto the 3rd rail of the local public transit, determined to end her life. I met with her frequently, listening with my heart to hers and letting her tell me whatever she wished to say about her life experiences. It seems she was well-liked at work and greatly admired and encouraged by her manager, as her productivity surpassed any present or former employee when she was in a “manic” phase; yet, it was during one of the terrible depressive stages that she felt she could no longer live in this world.
As we deepened our bond, and Lisa’s trust grew, she began to plan a more inspired future for herself, determined to stay on her meds, and truly interested in living a more balanced life, without the great roller-coaster experiences she had known for so many years. After a few weeks, she and I were permitted to walk the hospital campus together, and her favorite destination on these adventures was the children’s play area, where we would head for the swing sets. She felt a wonderful sense of freedom, as we would carry on our conversations while swinging back and forth in the fresh air.
One important thing we learn as Chaplains is that the seeds we plant are rarely, if ever, seen, so it is OUR trust we develop in the work we do, the patient’s ability to keep moving forward, and, even more importantly, the Sacred Presence that brought us together with each person and Its determination to continue guiding and supporting his or her journey to Wholeness. Of course, we never gave our personal information to these clients, so we knew it was unlikely we would ever see them or learn about them again.
Many months after Lisa’s release, I saw a petite, smiling, blonde young woman in a market I rarely visited, and she rushed to me for a hug. It was a happy reunion, and became even more precious when she asked if we might possibly go back to the hospital’s children’s area together. Yes, we returned to the swings, and she delighted me with wonderful news of her steady recovery, her satisfying new job, and healthy relationships. She expressed gratitude for all she had learned on her journey and hopefulness for the future. I never saw her again after that amazing day, except, of course, in my heart, where she lives with every other person with whom I have had such rich experiences.