(The Reflection on CPE, by Thongchai Tongros, Don)
I believe that there is a miracle happening me to each day.” said a four-stage-cancer patient whom I visited during my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). It is truly a genuine miracle when one is able to discover the integral beauty of one’s life through his or her nearly dying situation. These miracles had certainly inspired me throughout the 2 months of CPE in the National Kidney and Institutes, Philippines. The inspirations had forcefully pushed my gut to reach out to more terminally ill people whom I perceived as stranger turned my brothers and sisters in Christ. I had encountered more and more incredible “Living Miracles and Walking Inspirations” through my daily visit with patients.
At the very start of the actual visitation, daunted and inexperienced as I was, could not even dare to knock the doors of the patients’ rooms. Until I, wrestling with fear, met a 28-year-old catholic patient, undergoing the Chemotherapy. “May I visit you?” Yes please sit down,” he replied. When he began sharing his stories, I was moved with pity by his situation and the difficulties of what he had gone through. Having learned about his illness Leukemia, he was dispirited and despaired. He wished, “why don’t I just die?” But, through the unconditional love and tremendous support of his family, relatives and friends in office, he was able to rise up to fight with the disease. He looked at it as an opportunity for growth. He hoped to share his precious insights to a myriad of hopeless people. I felt very enlighten by his indomitable spirit and, after the talk, I became exuberant to reach out for and proclaim the marvel deeds of God with other patients.
Death is inevitable, yet the loss that the sick and their relatives never ever covet it to occur with their loved ones. A message from the Palliative Care Office was relayed to me that there was a patient asking for spiritual counseling. The ailing patient, pale and thin, was suffering from a kidney failure. His devastated wife and relatives were praying and singing for him. They told me that his vital organs were no longer responding to the dialysis and there was a very slim chance of survival. I could not do anything but challenged her to speak what she wished to say from the bottom of heart to her husband as he was listening. The man passed away two days after. I cannot imagine if that same situation will happen to people close to me. That situation brought me to a realization that at the end of life, each soul will come back to belong to the Lord. No matter who we are here on earth, we shall all be summoned to come back home and to face him in His Kingdom. We should therefore do righteous thing that please the Lord!
Processing of experiences played the most essential part in CPE. This was the time that each student shared his/her experiences and looked deeply into his or her personal stories. “How is your feeling? What make you think like that? What are you going to do with that?” were some of the many questions thrown to help us discover what we need to appreciate and improve. Honestly, it was not easy for me to hear someone pointing out my weaknesses; nevertheless, I believe, God works miraculously that he gave this opportunity for me to grow. The situations of the patients and their disposition in life brought me to an introspection of seeing myself on their shoes: they were once a jolly, healthy, optimistic and productive people, and now they are confined in a gloomy and cold hospital room. The patients and their conditions taught me the meaning of life. It leads to me to the understanding and accepting of myself and others which affects my worldview of looking at life in many ways.
Our supervisor unfailingly reminded us: Feeling has no religion. The CPE stimulated me to go out from my comfort zone and reach out to the world. By responding into his invitation, I find the miracles and inspiration to live as a religious, missionary and apostolic man. Of course, it may not comfortable, but I know in my heart that God is present and silently calls, leads and consoles me. What am I telling to myself right now? I should be ready and prepared to face the events that are unknown to me, for there are undiscovered living miracles and walking inspiration waiting out there.