Ruth Pryce spoke to us about her role as Hospice Chaplain
My name is Ruth Pryce and at present, I am coming to the end of my curacy at St Luke’s West Derby.
I am the eldest of five children. When I was born my Dad, Bob Metcalf was curate in Bootle. We then lived in Widnes and Wigan, coming back to Liverpool in 1976 when my Dad was Rector of Holy Trinity Wavertree.
In 1983 when I was 18, I moved down to Tunbridge Wells in Kent to train as a nurse, where I met my husband, Andy.
We then moved to Bury St Edmunds where my daughter Emily was born.
In 1991 we moved back to Liverpool when Andy got a job as a GP in Huyton and I got a job as a staff nurse in Marie Curie in Woolton, formally known as “Sunnybank”. I then went on to have our second child Joshua.
We now have one grandson, Harry, who is five years old. He keeps us happily busy. He has developed my love of football and like me he is a Liverpool fan. I have a season ticket at Anfield and Harry is desperate to go to a match.
After 18 years as a staff nurse at the Hospice, I took over the role of Chaplain which I have been doing for 11 years. My role is to look after the spiritual and religious care of the patients and their families. I feel this is such an important role, quite often people are aware of the physical needs of patients and families, but the Spiritual and emotional needs can be neglected or recognised.
I try to meet every inpatient, those with any faith or no faith. I also can get asked to meet day unit or outpatients. My role is very varied and therefore every day is different. I may get asked to sit with a patient as they are dying so that they don’t die alone, this is such a privilege to be with someone at the end of their life and the feel of peace in the room once they have died can be tangible.
I may get asked to see someone who is Spiritually distressed. Their distress can be for many reasons and sometimes they just need someone to listen to them, they may have regrets of things they haven’t achieved in their life or regrets of broken relationships that haven’t been solved.
There can be distress due to the pain of what the dying person is leaving behind, the pain of knowing they won’t see their families grow up and their achievements.
There can be distress when people are no longer able to do the things that have been important to them, this may be walking their dog on the beach, picking up grandchildren from school, going to a football match, participating in their hobbies, going to work, looking after their family, going out with friends.
I may also be asked to help a patient plan their funeral or help them write letters to family and friends, or write their end of life wishes. It is always a privilege to be asked to take a patient’s funeral, it is usually someone I have got to know well and maybe have no other connection with a church or faith community. I feel this funeral ministry is one-way God uses me in my role.
The Hospice is licensed to marry Patients, so part of my role is working with the registrar to arrange a marriage ceremony. The registrars at St George's Hall are brilliant and will come to the Hospice at very short notice to perform a wedding. I am often asked if I will bless the marriage which is such a special thing to do. A wedding always brings a buzz with it and we have a special wedding box with decorations in so we can decorate the Hospice and our chef will work with the family to provide a buffet for them. The future for these couples is very short, but we try to create a happy memory for families and friends.
My role also includes looking after the religious needs of patients whatever faith they belong to. I will find out what is important to the patient and help to facilitate this. I have experienced some very special moments working alongside the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Obviously, there are challenges working in the Hospice and in this type of ministry. There are times when I go home at night and question God as to why he allows people to suffer as some do, why should young children lose their Mother or Father at a young age or why should parents see their children die. But I know that God has called me to this ministry, and I know he gives me the strength daily to make some difference to those who are dying or grieving. One patient asked me “how can you do this job and believe in God”. My answer to her was that I couldn’t do it without my faith. God has called me to the Hospice and daily he gives me the opportunities to show his love to those I meet.
Spiritual care is so important. I see daily the positive effects this has on patients and families. I have seen healing at the Hospice, not the patient being cured of their illness, but inner healing bringing peace and acceptance. This can lead to the patient having a peaceful and “good” death.
There is a line from a hymn that I think of when talking about my role and the Hospice.
“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”