More than filed paperwork

This weekend, several families are grieving the loss of loved ones.

I know this because I’ve seen the file drawer in our chaplaincy office. It’s the drawer with the paperwork we complete to document some decisions families have to make for each person who dies in a couple of our hospitals. Several forms were dropped into the drawer this week. Different ages, different stories, different pain.

A friend and colleague said that it feels odd having the end of a life be marked by stapling papers and filing them. He’s right. It feels odd.


Before I put a couple of those forms in the drawer, I watched the families that gathered in the last hours. I heard them telling stories with that odd mix of laughter and silence and tears that we often see after anticipated (but seldom welcomed) deaths.

Those families will be grieving this weekend. But because of some movements toward reconciliation that happened before the deaths, the grief will be tempered with gratitude for opportunity seized. There was more to their stories than the paper in the drawer.

Unless you are one of those families, I invite you to laugh a little with someone this weekend. Consider how you might practically love your neighbor. How you might pray for those who hate you. How you might work for the good of your community. How you might rest and in so doing treat yourself and others with more respect.

Each of those things, by the way, reflects living a life that God invites us to live. Each is an opportunity to offer meaning from our lives before a chaplain somewhere puts paperwork in a drawer.

I’ll see you here Sunday with a prayer. Which includes a request for peace for you.


Taken from, an unpublished collection of chaplaincy reflections.


People who are grieving hear all kinds of annoying things from friends. This Is Hard: What I Say When Loved Ones Die offers you 15 short sentences that will help you, not preach at you, and a journal to help you remember what matters.