ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — He spends his days in hospitals, nursing homes, and bedrooms.
He learns about life, as he sits with people in their final hours.
“I get to see how strong people are. I get to see how much love people can give. I get to see how enduring the human spirit is!”
John Wilson has pastored for decades, but earned the bulk of his living working for the state. Then he was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
“I know what it’s like to be in that bed. I know what it’s like to have people come in and talk around you,” and Wilson says he noticed many people just didn’t come around.
He was visited by a chaplain — a chaplain he says who wouldn’t even come to his bedside.
“He stood in the entranceway and talked to me from there. And I thought, people who are dying, deserve better than this. I can do better. I got mad.”
Wilson had actually been misdiagnosed and a year later was back on his feet. At first questioning whether he was really called to be a hospice chaplain, he finally decided to be the one who would do better for people facing the end of their lives. That’s where he’s served for more than a dozen years — now Chaplain at Hope Hospice.
He believes his experience with illness gives him a different insight on life.
“You start looking at things like, I may not be here to finish what I start, what have I done that matters? And you start thinking along those terms.”
Wilson says many people facing their final days are struggling to keep dignity, self-worth and value. He says patients don’t necessarily ask why, but many do seem to be searching for meaning and value.
“Help me find out who I am and if I mattered. People want to know they mattered.”
And in getting to know them, Wilson says he sees greatness.
“We walk past people all the time. I get to know these people in their worst hour, yet I get to know how marvelous they really are.” And that’s why Wilson says his job is far more than a paycheck. He calls it a blessing and opportunity, where he gets far more back than he gives. “I have met the most interesting people. I’d never met them any other way. And I’ve learned the greatest things from them.”
Wilson’s work doesn’t end with the passing of a patient. He keeps in touch with the loved ones and friends who remain. “When we lose someone, we’re not affected for six months… …we’re affected for the rest of our lives.” Wilson says we all have a different way of grieving. “We don’t get over grief, we reconcile to it. It is part of us. And we don’t go back to normal. We come to a new sense of being.”
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