During my clinical chaplain training I was a humbled guest at many a death.  Any death is a sad occurrence, but the most disheartening are those that must die alone.  In some cases the family could not attend or refused to attend.  The chaplain was the only non-medical caregiver.  I held the hand of many close to death who were truly lonely. (solitude in healthcare)

 Most humans are afraid to be lonely.  Americans avoid it in the most high tech ways:  cell phones, I pads, I pods, portable gaming systems.  Our error is that we confuse loneliness with silence.  They are not the same.  Our fore fathers and mothers had many an opportunity to do farm work or house work in complete silence.  They seemed to me to be more thoughtful, slow to speak people.  Spiritually speaking, their silence led some of them to practice the discipline of solitude.

 Solitude is the practice of being absent from other people and other things so that one can experience the presence of God.  Silence is necessary.  Not only silence from our text messages and news sources but inner silence.  It is the calming of our hearts and minds so that God may speak.  Considering the world we live in today, solitude is a precious practice.

 Like a sponge, we soak up the emotional environment around us.  This includes the anxiety of the work place, the tension of our marriages, the happiness or sadness relayed in a story shared.  Silence and solitude allows us to soak up the peacefulness and store it as a balance for a busy day.  Silence and solitude allows us to tune ourselves to God’s work in our lives and the lives of others. It makes us available for God’s peace and calm.   Jesus practiced solitude many times in the New Testament.  Jesus inaugurated his ministry by the solitude found in the desert for 40days (Matthew 4:1-11).  Before his chose the 12, he spent the night in the desert hills (Luke 6:12).  Often Jesus speaks of “lonely places” (Matthew 14:14; 1:35).

 During my times with dying veterans, we often spoke after times of solitude.  Most of those conversations began with “I’d never thought about it this way before” or “I remember and I’m not scared about it”.  Solitude gave some of them opportunities that a busy life had robbed them of.  With the silence found in their hospital rooms, many veterans revisited and made peace with past emotions or histories or loved ones.  The solitude gave them a gift of wholeness.  For the first time, many spoke to God.  And when they had a fill of solitude, they were ready to talk.  But this time, it was different.  I noticed their words were slow and thought-filled.  Knowing their time was limited, they wanted to get down to brass tacks with the chaplain.  Those were rich times filled of questions, comments and emotions about God, life values and themselves. 

I discovered that solitude is the medicine for loneliness.   It is an inner state of mind and condition of the heart that is marked by calmness and gives the gift of clarity.  Solitude manifests itself in the life of those who practice it by thoughtful words, often few, that address others with hope and kindness.  Those who practice solitude seem more patient and peaceful in such a way it overflows and fills the room.

taken @ St. Dominic Catholic Church in Kingsport, Tennessee

Sometimes feeling peaceful means finding a place externally and internally to soak up what God places before us – peace. –pondering peace today–