When I was nearing the end of one of my chaplain residencies my supervisor asked me how I was planning to say goodbye to my colleagues. “I don’t know,” I responded, “I kind of thought that residents just sort of disappear into the sunset without telling everyone that they’re leaving.” My response was met with some funny looks from my peers and in true CPE fashion, I was encouraged to explore if I might be avoiding the discomfort of a goodbye.
In a hospital setting there are a lot of people coming and going. The reality is that most of our contact with others is temporary. Students and contractors come for a season, ambitious leaders continue up the career path, burnout and fatigue are common, and perhaps the most obvious, patients are discharged. As a result, many hospital employees arent great with goodbye. I don’t think this is isolated to healthcare however; avoiding goodbye is a human thing, the hospital just makes for a good excuse.
If I’m honest, part of why I didn’t announce my departure from the unit where I served was because I was afraid that no one would say anything. My negative self-talk had caused me to wonder if perhaps my absence wouldn’t even be noticed. Furthermore, as an introvert, any kind of event with me as the center of attention also sounded quite uncomfortable.
What I was missing was an incredible opportunity to connect. Saying goodbye in an exercise in trust and intimacy. It is a chance to grieve and have our grief absorbed by relationship. It’s funny that I missed this. After all, I am in the grief business. As a chaplain I sojourn with others every day in their grief and as a counselor, I specialize in the topic. In my professional role, termination is intentional and mandatory. When done well, it is healthy and part of the therapeutic process.
It would be selfish of me to allow my ego to prevent others from having the opportunity to say goodbye if they chose to do so. Because my mission is to courageously live an authentic life that influences others to do the same, I have been open with my own process and practiced vulnerability, even in things that seem silly or mundane. This post is no different.
So, my Appalachian friends, this is goodbye. My wife and I have placed our house on the market and begun the process of loosening our tent stakes so that we can move back West to be closer to our families of origin. We have done this once before, when we moved here from California, but this time is harder. We have sunk roots deep into this community, purchased our first home, and watched our children grow out of diapers here.
The last eight years have been chock-full of relationships and personal growth that is really quite daunting when I reflect back.
I have obtained two graduate degrees, completed internships and residencies at several facilities, and participated in hours of continuing education which built my skill and self-confidence as a professional and a leader. I have partnered with several agencies and worked with various organized faith communities to address issues of poverty, addiction, abuse, and justice. I have joined multiple civic clubs to build relationships and serve others. The work has been rewarding, but the relationships move me to tears. From professors to peers and supervisors to clients, so many have poured into my family that I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
My circles of community are broad and make a diverse tapestry of beautiful humans doing beautiful things in the world. I was ordained and baptized all three of my children in front of First Christian Church, Johnson City. The members of Leadership Kingsport befriended and trusted me to tell our story. My CPE groups helped give me the courage to confront my inner demons and continue healing from my past. The professors at Emmanuel and Milligan opened my eyes to vast new areas of academics and poured into my excitement to learn and grow. My friends at Covenant Counseling helped expand my clinical skills. And the PAX of F3 Northeast Tennessee have held me accountable to rising up as a leader in all areas of life. I will dearly miss being in the immediate space of so many of these brilliant and compassionate people. I will especially miss my Indian Path family. I cannot imagine a better place to spread my wings. The leadership team has invested much in my development and the clinical team has received me with open arms. I am daily affirmed, nurtured, and encouraged in ways I cannot even begin to repay. Even more, these ones have trusted me with their stories. So many in this building have come to me and shared their deepest fears, hopes, pains, and tales of triumph.
It has been an incredible honor to minister to this community. I appreciate the hospitality and each person who has welcomed us to these mountains. May you be blessed ten-fold what you have given to me.