“These days many people seem to shy away from discussing death or feel great discomfort in the presence of those who are dying. Yet, we need to understand that death is a natural part of life, whether it be someone else’s death or our own.”
—17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorge
My Chaplaincy Approach
I was surrounded by death from an early age, yet even with that introduction, it was never talked about.
I didn’t understand why people suddenly disappeared, what to do with the feelings that came up, and certainly had no one with whom to process them. The great cycle of life and the very nature that all things that take form and dissolve again weren’t explained to me. How I would have loved to have someone there with me, listening, holding, walking with me as grief and loss unfolded.
So for me, working with the dying and their families has become a doorway to help others move through these times with greater understanding and compassion. Because in the end as well as the beginning, it seems we all need to be heard, we all need to be held, we all need to touch and be touched.
I have found such power and beauty working with this time of life, the last pilgrimage of sorts and it opens, if we allow it, to a deeper glimpse of the mystery that is this life.
As a hospice chaplain, I walk with the dying and their families, I sit with the dying and their families, and when there is nothing left to hold on to, kindness, compassion, love, an open heart, a great womb of an ear are all that is really necessary. These are the qualities I bring to the bedside. Sitting in these qualities can often bring forth the dissolution of fear and the ability to live while dying for as Sogyal Rinpoche says “death is like a mirror in which all life is reflected.”
As a doula for the dying, I help create rituals, legacies, and vigils. I plan funerals and officiate at the funerals themselves. Anointing with oils, body and breath awareness, deep intuitive readings allow me and the patients and families to come together soul to soul as we learn to recognize that death is much like an ice cube melting in water — form returning to formlessness.
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Working with Alumah, I came to appreciate her creative and deeply rooted approach to spiritual care. She brings a perceptive, listening heart attuned to hear what lies beneath and within spoken words. Alumah is insightful, patient, and passionate, trusting in her vocational call.
Chaplain, St. Camillus Life Plan Community
Alumah has the compassionate, listening heart of a true Chaplain. With her presence and soothing words in dealing with the suffering of the residents, she is able to bring light and radiate joy.
Pastor Chaplain Mario Ciotola