The worst front row

Caleb Potter

Have you ever been that person I've heard squealing on the radio because you won front row tickets to the hottest concert in town?

Was it your name drawn from the hat, winning the raffle for center court at the championship game? Or, maybe more realistic, are you the one who shows up early to the performance to stake out the premier seats, front and center?

If you answered "no" to all of the above, you and I are cut from the same cloth. That's not to say I haven't called the radio station repeatedly in hopes that I'd be the ninth caller, or bought the raffle tickets with fingers crossed and prayers prayed. There are some events in life where we want to be positioned for maximum impact, unhindered by obstructed views.

However, it recently dawned on me that the front row is not always the most preferred seat. Arriving a few minutes late to an out of town funeral, I quickly took a spot in the back of the chapel as the service of a colleague's husband began.

Even though I was 20 rows separated from the front, I still felt too close. As I listened to the anguish pouring from this young widow and her four daughters, all the training, education, and experience I had acquired over the years as a grief counselor melted away into a heap of helplessness.

So, rather than try to muster up a well-meaning platitude as I passed by after the service, I simply did what Jesus modeled for us at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. I just wept.

This concept of presence -- simply being with those in their darkest hour to offer comfort and support -- is one of the foundational principles Hospice of Western Kentucky was built upon. And while each member of the hospice team is keenly aware of this truth, the spiritual counselors (or chaplains) seek to champion it in a unique way.

Mark Poiles, Mary Shultz, and Paul Moore, each longtime members of their respective communities, are remarkably skilled at coming alongside those in their final chapter of life to address the variety of emotional and spiritual concerns that naturally arise under those circumstances.

Each have been blessed with kind and compassionate souls and they genuinely desire to know the hearts of their patients in order to speak to the issues most important to them. And while all three unapologetically hold a Christian faith, they ensure that each person is treated with equality and respect regardless of their belief system.

The value these three add to hospice care is incalculable, as many grieving families would testify. I've marveled as they've driven across multiple counties to sit at the bedside of those in their final hours, softly singing hymns, offering a comforting word of prayer, or simply hugging and weeping with grieving loved ones. In those moments an important truth is being communicated: we will bear the burden with you, so much as we can.

See, hospice care is not strictly about easing the symptoms of terminal illness, though that is certainly a vital component. Hospice of Western Kentucky knows that a foundation of support must be laid long before family and friends are seated on that front row. And that support needs to endure long after the sympathy cards and casseroles stop coming in.

In a beautiful and seamless partnership between the spiritual counselors and the bereavement support team, the patient, family, and friends are offered emotional and spiritual care from the time of admission, extending indefinitely after the patient has passed.

Grieving is a heavy burden, and we take the Apostle Paul's counsel in Galatians 6 to "bear one another's burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ" seriously.

And while I hope the only front rows in your near future are joyful ones, please know, should the time come, we will be there if called upon to make that worst front row a little more bearable.

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