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Hospital Chaplain's Response to AIDS
Mar 30, 1999

As a Director of Pastoral Services in one of our major hospitals in the city of Albuquerque, N.M., I have had several contacts with loved ones whose son/daughter have full blown AIDS. I am centering on a particular family whose parents have rejected their son who is within days of passing through the tunnel. Suddenly they are guilt ridden and refuse to admit their flaws regarding the dilemma with their son. The son is angry and resents the parents. A chaplain is called to the bedside of the patient when suddenly, the parents arrive on scene. The chaplain if confronted with anger and guilt. Nobody wants to talk nor admit. My question is, "how would a chaplain begin to address the problem? What would be an appropriate word, statement,, to raise the level of dialogue on the hurtful emmotions? What are some of the best ways to address both the stone hearts?

Response from Father DeMartini

Dear Friend, Thank you for your letter. The circumstance you present speaks powerfully of the immense pain and fear that people struggle with in the face of AIDS. As we know, the illness is not the only issue here. It seems as if there is a struggle to find peace and "the right words" despite what may be immense differences in understanding and attitudes between the man and his parents. Perhaps the chaplain can invite the man to consider what would help him "die in peace" and for his parents to reflect on how they can "love their son anyway" despite their disappointments, fears, anger or whatever. I encourage the chaplain to speak simply from the heart--not to discount their pain, confusion, and differences but to gently invite them to find peace with themselves, each other and God. There is a wonderful story which has many of the same circumstances in the book "The Least of These My Brethren" by Daniel Baxter, MD. It is the story of Stephen and his parents who struggled with immense differences. I hope that their resolution will be repeated in your situation. Thank you for your ministry--I will keep you, the chaplain and this troubled family in my prayers. Blessings, Fr. Rod



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