Spiritual Care Offers New Life

When Connie Rochester moved into Fairhaven Community, she didn’t have clothes, shoes or eyeglasses. Her heart was ailing both physically and spiritually.

“When I got here it was kind of a rough part of my life, but I thank God for my life because it turned out beautiful,” Rochester says.

On Rochester’s second day at the United Church Homes residential community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, she awoke to find that staff had left her clothes and shoes that fit. The Rev. Becky King, the community’s chaplain, began to talk with Rochester. But it took time before Rochester felt comfortable sharing her troubles.

“Pastor Becky told me she felt I had a wall around me by the way I talked and acted,” Rochester says. “I probably did, but I’m free of that now.”

While providing spiritual care to residents, King is careful to distinguish religious needs from the basic needs of the human spirit. In addition to leading regular worship services, she also meets at least quarterly with all residents to assess their spiritual needs.

“Spiritual care is walking with residents, family and staff as they identify what gives them a sense of meaning and purpose,” King says. “It’s exploring with another person: What gives them hope? What’s their sense of community? What’s their understanding of suffering and how do they move beyond that? It’s looking at all of those aspects.”

King says spiritual care is also about exploring the topic of forgiveness.

“It’s looking at the bigger question of who do they need to forgive and where they need to be forgiven,” she says. “It’s asking the question, beyond themselves, in what or in whom do they believe?”

Over time, Rochester, now 82, opened up to King about a family member’s addiction, being left unattended during her first heart attack and being kicked out of her own house by her daughter.

And Rochester began to heal. Her joy for life rings strong in her clear, bright voice. In the last year and a half, she has made what she describes as “new and better” friends, received the medical care she needs for her heart and acquired eyeglasses so she no longer has to feel her way along the walls.

And she has been sorting through her hurtful family experiences to arrive at a place of forgiveness. Her daughter now visits her at Fairhaven as they work toward restoring their relationship.

“I want that more than anything,” Rochester says. “It’s a hard, hard thing to push aside as if it never happened. But throughout my lifetime, I’ve done things that have been unforgiveable to Jesus, but He forgave me. So I forgave her.”

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