Chaplain Kimberly Russell
“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.”
Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 24 Stories
I returned to work after a wonderful vacation visiting family. As I look through my email, I quickly piece together that while I was away, one of my patients died. This patient chose to go home and respect the life she had left. She was old enough to make decisions and she was educated enough to know what each option meant. For her, death was not the worst thing in the world. She returned home and thrived in the short term, and then her body began to shut down. Doctors wanted her to return so they could attempt a radical treatment, the same treatment she refused a few months earlier due to the agony and suffering attached. My patient was able to identify what she needed; family to be present and medicines to help with pain. She died peacefully, surrounded by love.
Our culture fears death and, as a society, we do everything in our power to avoid death. It would be frowned upon to give burial preparations as a baby shower gift yet that might have been exactly what one of the Wise Men did. In the time of Jesus, myrrh was mixed with aloes and anointed as part of the burial ritual. Life is limited and the next day on this earth is not guaranteed, even Jesus experienced death. Can we turn away from the fear of death and embrace our life as a complete beginning, middle and end? Can we respect one another enough to embrace each moment of life, even the last moment?
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Loving God, thank you for each moment, from the first breath of life to the last. Help me respect the entirety of lifetime and provide strength when life becomes difficult. When fear starts to take hold, I pray for peace and comfort. When I am gone and my loved ones are grieving, God, breathe life into my memories. Do not let my end become their end. Amen.
Kimberly works as a pediatric chaplain at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She provides primary coverage for leukemia/lymphoma patients as well as adolescents and young adults living with HIV. Kimberly earned a Master of Divinity at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas and is ordained and endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She received specialized training at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in Georgia. Kimberly is a board certified chaplain with active memberships with the Association of Professional Chaplains and Pediatric Chaplain Network.