Hospice chaplain knows when to listen

April 07, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - When it comes to dealing with a terminally ill person, Loyal Vanderveer said the key isn't just knowing what to say, but often what not to say.

"I've learned there are times when it's better not to say anything at all," said the new chaplain for Hospice of Washington County. "Just being there is often what is needed most."

Fresh from 24 years as pastor of Manor Church of the Brethren south of Hagerstown, Vanderveer is no stranger to Hospice, having served as a volunteer for 15 years. In January, he moved into the newly created paid staff position of Hospice chaplain.


Vanderveer's work with Hospice began in 1988, when the organization offered a course for those who wanted to volunteer and work with clients.

"As a pastor, I felt I needed to know more about the needs of those who are terminally ill," Vanderveer said.

After he took the course, he was asked to be a spiritual-care volunteer.

Dawn Johns, Hospice community liaison, stressed the importance of honesty in dealing with clients.

"The goal is simply to let them know you are there for them," she said.

Vanderveer, 62, said he had experience from dealing with his own parishioners, but wanted to do more. While still the pastor at Manor Church, Vanderveer was asked by Hospice to be the volunteer chaplain.

"It was an outreach for the Manor Church congregation at that time," he said.

Vanderveer said no terminally ill person wants to hear someone say, "it's God's will" or "I know how you feel."

Often, he said, he works with the families of terminally ill clients because they are sharing in the crisis and may need guidance on how to act and what to say to their loved ones.

Vanderveer and Johns said calling in a chaplain or a pastor doesn't mean the end is near for the client. The goal is to help the client and the family deal with any spiritual issues they may have, whether it be for a day, a week, a month or longer.

The chaplain services at Hospice are nondenominational and can be coordinated with a particular church pastor.

Vanderveer said his purpose isn't to talk about religion, to try to change someone's mind or to evangelize.

"I'm there to offer comfort and to fulfill their spiritual needs, not mine," he said.

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