[One of the requirements for our MDiv program is to complete a basic 10-week unit of Clinical Pastoral Education in a program certified by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education that focuses on pastoral encounters with persons in need or in crisis. Eli Snider, one of our second-year students, delivered this essay at a CPE graduation ceremony at Providence Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, WA this summer.]
As I reflect on my time in CPE and what this experience has meant to me, I think about my relationship to Sacred Heart. Not the institution, the actual building.
I have had a relationship with that 12-story building. Early in my relationship, I would look up at its imposing presence, its windows shimmering in early morning, and all I could think about was how much concentrated suffering, pain, and death was confined in this big white box. I imagined a heat map of Spokane, of tragedy and death, and I imagined Sacred Heart glowing like a firefly from a satellite view. And every morning I had to walk into that building. Some mornings I hated it. I was an unfortunately appointed grief doula, ironically enough in the building I was born.
And then something began to change. The more conversations I had with staff chaplains, my peers, and patients, I realized something transformative. This building is not a concentration of suffering, it is a concentration of life — everything that goes into life.
And life contains all things. Regret also walks hand-in-hand with gratitude. Death also walks with thankfulness of lives well lived. Close calls walk with second chances. Pain surfaces communities of support one didn’t know was there until misfortune visited.
It occurred to me, no, I was not a grief doula, I was a life doula — helping to deliver all the emotions that accompany life in its rich, brilliantly ironic, complexity. The exposed honesty of everything life has to offer, all concentrated in this big white box, this is what Sacred Heart has come to mean for me.
Eli Snider is in his second year of studies in the MDiv program. He worked in the field of non-profit leadership before following the call to ministry. Eli has a diverse volunteer history, including mentorship through Big Brothers Big Sisters, building homes in Mexico, founding a charity to support an orphanage in Thailand, and supporting refugees at World Relief. He is currently applying his experience in entrepreneurial business as the coordinator of the Religious Innovators Network – a collaborative initiative between the Church of the Larger Fellowship and the Unitarian Universalist Association.