This article is part of an ongoing series exploring the rich spiritual soil that can be found in Griffin and Spalding County.
“Praise be to the God…of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God is present to us at all stages of life. The scriptures are full of rich metaphors, affirming that it was God who “knit us together in our mother’s womb,” it is God who “knows every hair on our head,” and it is God who “sustains us in every moment.” The scriptures repeatedly affirm that the God of the universe is immanently present in our lives from the very first breath until the last.
The trouble is that we can often forget. Especially towards the end of life, when our attention is overwhelmed by medical issues, doctor’s visits, medication, and so forth, we can lose sight of God’s guiding hand. For grieving families as well, it can be difficult to sense God’s presence in these difficult, yet sacred, moments.
Hospice and the compassionate chaplains that serve there are one of the great resources that we have in our community. The guiding principles of Hospice care can be traced back to the 4th Century, when monasteries and other religious communities opened up their doors to care for pilgrims, the elderly, and the seriously ill or dying. Guided by the principle of simple charity, these orders knew that they were serving Christ as they gave a place of welcome and rest to the stranger and cared for the sick and dying.
The modern Hospice movement began in England in the 1950s and 60s. Pioneered by Cicely Saunders, it advocated for a comprehensive approach to end-of-life care, which included basic needs like shelter, food, and basic medical care, but grew to include pain management, emotional support, and spiritual assistance. She brought this vision to the United States, where the first modern hospice was founded in 1974.
Dr. Jack Landham serves as a Hospice chaplain in Griffin. Originally from Griffin, he returned to his hometown just as Brightmoor Hospice was beginning.
“Hospice takes a whole person approach to the end of life,” he said. “It is more of a philosophy than a specific strategy – ministering to patients’ needs, alleviating pain, and supporting them when a cure is not possible.”
When asked about why he chose to be a Hospice chaplain, Landham said, “You don’t choose Hospice; Hospice chooses you. I love people – meeting them and spending time with them. In this job, I get to tell people every day that God loves them and is present with them. It’s not about evangelism, exactly. It’s about love. My job is to walk with folks, not to tell them where to go.”
Hospice chaplains work alongside local pastors to support patients and their families, pointing the way to hope, comfort, and an awareness of God’s presence in some of the most difficult moments of life.
Rev. Steven Norris