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Inside the Hospice: Small Spaces

by Fr Peter Michael Scott

By the time you read this I will have come back from the Florida Keys. That is not to make you feel jealous, although I can quite understand why. Before last year, the Keys were a unique holiday destination offering unspoilt beaches, palm trees and blue skies. The local population is involved in the tourist industry or are retirees seeking escape from the American dream. Last September, Hurricane Irma destroyed or damaged 1200 Keys homes as its eye passed through the region before making its way up the west coast of Florida. I have been asked to fly out and lead a day of recollection on ‘small spaces’.

‘Small spaces’ is perhaps an unfair title, because the Catholic residents who endured the storm want to explore their awareness of God within their homes while Irma passed over. ‘Small sacred spaces’ might be better.

Being in a small space is a familiar experience for hospice patients and when they arrive they quickly make their room or the bay they are sharing an extension of their house or apartment. They are encouraged to bring in photos and ornaments to make their time in the hospice less anxious and more peaceful. My role as chaplain is to encourage them to acknowledge that God is in the hospice with them; that he either resides in the room or he is eager and delighted to visit them. Many prefer to acknowledge God as a room-mate, the perfect sort: one who makes no demands, enjoys their guests, understands their frustrations and is ready to listen whatever the time.

I have often thought that we can do the same, remembering that God shares our car journey, or sits with us on the bus, or lives with us at home. Having God so close, and creating a boundary where we can talk to him, means that we can chatter and reflect with him about the day just lived, or the guest who has visited. When hospice patients open themselves to this immanent presence of the Lord, they want to keep him in, they don’t want him to leave.

Of course, the next step, is to discover that he is not just in the room, but present within us and always has been; we are his best home and his most sacred small space.

Please pray for the patients, staff, volunteers and Sisters of St Joseph’s Hospice.