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Questions for Reflection
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Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars Podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:05):
We share personal experiences so we can learn from each other. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:09):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:10):
I've been in recovery for 15 years and am the author of Discovering My Scars, my memoir about how what's done in the darkness eventually comes to light.
Beth Demme (00:17):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor who's all about self-awareness and emotional health, because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:23):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together. And when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as co-host.
Beth Demme (00:30):
I didn't hesitate to say yes because I've learned a lot from sharing personal experiences with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:36):
We value honest conversations, and we hope you do too.
Beth Demme (00:39):
On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled Characters Beth Met in the Hospital.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:44):
Then we'll share a slice of life and the show will close with questions for reflection. We will invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:52):
All right. So we've talked about this on the podcast a little bit, Beth, but you served as a chaplain in the hospital system here in Tallahassee for five months, is it?
Beth Demme (01:05):
Yeah. It was about five months, January to May. It was part of what's called a clinical pastoral education program.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:10):
That's a lot of words.
Beth Demme (01:11):
Yeah. We call it just CPE. So it's sort of like a very specific kind of continuing education for pastors.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:18):
So you're kind of like a chaplain intern.
Beth Demme (01:22):
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:23):
Okay. This was something that you chose to do or you needed to do for schooling?
Beth Demme (01:29):
So I didn't need to do it for school, but I did need to do it as part of my path to ordination in the United Methodist Church. There are lots of steps in our methodical way that we get people to ordination. This is one thing that the Board of Ordained Ministry wanted me to do. And so, I had time to do it so I decided to jump in with both feet and do it this past January.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:56):
To clarify, people don't know what the word chaplain means. What does that mean?
Beth Demme (02:00):
Yeah, that's a good question, because it was interesting actually the responses that I would get sometimes in the hospital when I would introduce myself as the chaplain. So the chaplain is part of the spiritual care department. Although many chaplains are pastors and are Christians, actually chaplains are intended to be interfaith folks who can provide spiritual care to anyone from any faith background. It's a lot of listening. And so, it's really inviting the person to come to their own spiritual awarenesses.
Beth Demme (02:34):
But the idea is that your spiritual and emotional health impact your healing. And so, the chaplain is there to help with that part of your healthcare.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:44):
So the term chaplain, is that term used as a nondenominational spiritual leader? Is that how that term is always used?
Beth Demme (02:55):
Yeah. I think that chaplain is a term that is pretty specific to the healthcare field. Although now that I say that, I think there are also military chaplains.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:05):
There is, yeah.
Beth Demme (03:07):
But in both of those settings, they would be expected to be, for sure, at least nondenominational, possibly also interfaith.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:15):
Interfaith, okay. That's interesting. Like I know the term, but I never dissected it actually. Yeah.
Beth Demme (03:21):
It wouldn't be like pastor. I wouldn't come into somebody's hospital room and introduce myself as a pastor because that's a very specific, limiting term. [crosstalk 00:03:32].
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:31):
So is pastor a ... Is that a Protestant term?
Beth Demme (03:36):
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So a Christian Protestant term. Yeah, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:40):
So the other thing that's interesting, before we get into the people, is that you were a chaplain during the height of COVID. Not obviously when it started, but this was during COVID times, before we had a vaccine.
Beth Demme (03:54):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:56):
So why did you choose to be in a hospital? Why did you go, "Oh, COVID's happening? Let me hop on over to a hospital"?
Beth Demme (04:03):
Yeah, I mean I would not have chosen for COVID to have happened. So that was just how the timing worked out. That's when I-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:11):
But you knew COVID was-
Beth Demme (04:12):
I did, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:13):
COVID did not start happening and you were already assigned to it. You knew COVID was going.
Beth Demme (04:19):
Yes. Before I even applied, COVID was already happening, was already a problem, but it just was-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:25):
It was a problem.
Beth Demme (04:26):
... the time in my life when I was available to do this. It was an easier time for me to do it than any other time. And so ...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:33):
But was that a hesitation, the fact that COVID was going on and you were going to go to the place where the sick people go?
Beth Demme (04:39):
Well, I did ask the head of the department to explain the COVID precautions to me. No one in the spiritual care department had contracted COVID. We did not see patients who were COVID-positive and the hospital was limiting how many visitors could come in. So that limited our potential exposure to COVID through visitors. Of course, I always wore a really high-grade hospital type mask. So I did what I could to be protected.
Beth Demme (05:14):
By the time I started in January, there were healthcare workers who were being vaccinated. So I knew the vaccination was coming. I didn't get vaccinated until I think it was late February, early March. But I did know that was coming by the time I started, yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:31):
And how many times did you get COVID during the COVID period?
Beth Demme (05:34):
Zero. I have never had COVID.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:37):
So you interacted with lots of patients at the hospital. Do you know roughly how many actual patients you interacted with during your time?
Beth Demme (05:46):
Altogether, I would say it was probably a couple hundred.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:49):
So I'm assuming everyone you met was just so happy to see you and was just like-
Beth Demme (05:54):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:54):
... "Oh my gosh. She's going to pray for me and my leg will be healed."
Beth Demme (05:59):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:00):
I'm assuming that was most of your interactions. Was that any of them?
Beth Demme (06:05):
Most people actually were pretty happy to see me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:10):
Beth Demme (06:10):
So there is a screening process when someone comes into the hospital, where if they say that they're spiritual or religious and then they can also ask to see a chaplain. So I wasn't always a surprise visitor to folks, but sometimes I did cold call people just to be like, "Hey, just checking in."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:31):
"Do you know this guy named Jesus? He's pretty cool."
Beth Demme (06:34):
Yeah, I never did that. I never did that, because I wasn't there to-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:37):
Beth Demme (06:37):
... convert folks. So I was just really there to serve them. But there was one time, there was a gentleman who I had an order to go see, which means it's come through the medical record that they want a chaplain to go. A patient can do that or part of the medical staff. They could do it.
Beth Demme (06:54):
So I thought he was expecting me and I went in and he was so nice, but he did not want to see me. So I explained who I was and he said ... I'm just going to do this goofy impression of him because he was very chill. He was like, "Dude, I so appreciate what you're doing, but I am an atheist." I was like, "No problem. We don't have to talk about God. We could talk about art or music or poetry, anything that you think would lift your spirits." He's like, "Dude, I'm good. But thank you." So I left, right? He didn't really want to have a conversation, and that's always the patient's choice.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:37):
Yeah, met a lot of people. I'm assuming you had some good connections with people.
Beth Demme (07:41):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:42):
But I have a couple of questions to spur some of these interactions on. So I'm curious, who was the most surprising person you met?
Beth Demme (07:52):
Let me just say one other thing about the hippie guy who was super nice and I was so glad to have met him. But he had a wife and a girlfriend. He had two women who-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:05):
That were there with him?
Beth Demme (08:07):
Well, you could only have one visitor. And so, it was a point of contention for his family because you can only have one person a day at that point, and he had two people who really wanted to be there with him. So that was surprising. I had not really encountered-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:23):
Like an ex-wife?
Beth Demme (08:24):
No, no, like a current wife.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:26):
A current wife-
Beth Demme (08:26):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:27):
... and a current girlfriend-
Beth Demme (08:28):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:29):
... that were friends.
Beth Demme (08:30):
Yes, like they lived as a family. What's that ... It's a throuple, maybe?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:34):
I don't know.
Beth Demme (08:34):
It's not polyamory, I don't think.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:36):
I guess a throuple if it's a girlfriend. Is it a girlfriend of both of them?
Beth Demme (08:41):
I think so.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:42):
Then, yeah, a throuple.
Beth Demme (08:42):
Yeah. So I think it was a throuple. So I had never encountered that in my ... I've seen it on TV, like in TV shows, but I never encountered in my [crosstalk 00:08:50] real life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:50):
I'm shocked that he is not a church-going fellow. I'm shocked by this. From all your description of him, I'm just shocked.
Beth Demme (08:58):
Yeah. Listen, he was very polite.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:00):
Throuples can go to church, by the way.
Beth Demme (09:01):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:02):
Also, when I say go to church, I don't mean go to church. I just mean be a Christ follower or a believer.
Beth Demme (09:08):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:08):
You don't have to go to church unless-
Beth Demme (09:10):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:12):
You don't have to go to church.
Beth Demme (09:13):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:14):
You don't have to go to church and you are not a bad person. That doesn't mean that you're any less of a Christian if you don't go to church.
Beth Demme (09:21):
We've covered this before, but you do sound a little defensive.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:24):
I'm being defensive because you keep changing my words. So I'm making it clear to listeners that might not go to church, that is okay. It's okay to be an atheist as well. Beth understands it. That's why she's not defending it anymore. You guys, I won. You're welcome.
Beth Demme (09:41):
One of the best conversations I had was with a man who was a prisoner, who had come to the hospital after being injured in a prison fight. When prisoners come into the hospital, they always come with two guards. And so, this turned into a conversation between the four of us that was very enlightening.
Beth Demme (10:07):
But I think that his openness and his willingness to talk and his genuine desire to reflect on his life or do what we call life review, even in the presence of the guards, that really surprised me. So he would probably be the most surprising person I met.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:26):
How many prisoners came in to the hospital?
Beth Demme (10:29):
A lot. I mean a couple a day.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:29):
Beth Demme (10:32):
Sometimes it was because they were having a health issue. At one time, I met with a prisoner who was really devastated because he was sure that he was going to get a terrible prognosis and he requested a chaplain. I went in and he expressed his fear to me. We talked about that and I tried to help him process his fear. Then he asked me, "Will you come back this afternoon?" and, "Of course."
Beth Demme (10:58):
So I went back in the afternoon and he had had the procedure and he had gotten the prognosis, and it was not what he thought it was. He was so relieved and had so much joy, which I thought ... I don't know how my own ability to access joy would be if I were incarcerated. So it was just a reminder that people are people and people are adaptable and that joy can break through. So that was good.
Beth Demme (11:28):
I also had a conversation once with a gang member. He told me that. I mean he said that he was a gang member. I learned while I was there that oftentimes when a prisoner would come in, there had been a gang fight at the prison and that that was what caused them to come in. In fact, I'm remembering now that when this particular gentleman came in, we were expecting at least one more to come in.
Beth Demme (12:01):
So you carry a beeper. As a chaplain, you carry a beeper. It'll come across the beeper. It'll say trauma and then it'll have the patient's trauma name, because they don't take the time to figure out your real name. If you're in a trauma situation, you are given an alias, and they just do it alphabetically.
Beth Demme (12:22):
So if you're happy to be the T, as we're going through [inaudible 00:12:26], you're Trauma Tango, like that's just your name. If you're the Z, you're Trauma Zulu. I can't remember ... Trauma Hotel, Trauma Indigo. I can't remember all of them.
Beth Demme (12:32):
So anyway, we got this thing, trauma so-and-so is going to be coming in. Anyway, somehow I knew that there were supposed to be two traumas coming in. Well, the other person didn't make it. They died so they didn't end up coming into the hospital.
Beth Demme (12:46):
So I knew that this particular patient was going to be in bad shape. But when I got up to ... I wasn't able to see him in the ER, and I don't remember why. When someone comes into the ER, they're taken for CT scans and everything. And so, you don't always get to see them.
Beth Demme (13:06):
But I ended up seeing him while he was in ICU. I was like, okay, well, I know that the other person didn't make it and he's in the ICU. And so, I thought he's really going to be in bad shape. I probably won't even get to talk to him.
Beth Demme (13:17):
Well, I was wrong. He was awake and alert and ready to talk. He was explaining to me that he was in a gang and had always been in a gang. Before he was in prison, he was in a gang. In prison, he was still part of that same gang.
Beth Demme (13:34):
He said that he really wanted me to pray for his family because they weren't anything like him. They were not bad like him. We just had this really precious moment of connection over the idea of grace and how grace isn't something that we earn.
Beth Demme (13:55):
It was a moment where I really understood in a new way what it is that I think was accomplished on the cross. What I think was accomplished in the crucifixion and the resurrection is that all of those feelings of shame and worthlessness, and truly all of the terrible things that he's done ... He was not oblivious to the reality of how bad his life choices were and his actions were, but he really needed grace.
Beth Demme (14:31):
I thought that's amazing, that I know to my core that really nothing he has done can separate him from God. That was a really impactful moment. He had been stabbed in the head.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:47):
By the person that died?
Beth Demme (14:50):
Yeah. Apparently, I learned that when there are prison stabbings, they just use whatever they can make, just like on TV or in the movies. They can just make these shanks. And so, yeah, he got stabbed in the head with one of those, a shiv or ... I don't know what they call it, but ...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:05):
So did they stitch up the wound in his head?
Beth Demme (15:08):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:09):
So did he kill the other guy?
Beth Demme (15:11):
There were a lot of people in the fight, so I'm not exactly sure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:15):
Yeah, it was like a lot.
Beth Demme (15:17):
Yeah. It was a big brawl. Sometimes the guards would want to talk and they would ... I remember once there was a prisoner who was in a really bad shape and we really didn't think he was going to make it. But oftentimes ... Actually, this happened ... I shouldn't say often. It happened to me several times where I was like, oh my goodness, they're not going to make it. Then they make it, which is amazing. I'm like, "Oh, right, because they're in the hospital." Healing happens here and medicine happens here.
Beth Demme (15:46):
But I remember once there was a prisoner we didn't think was going to make it. Then he rebounded and the medicine worked and everything that the doctors were doing worked. The guard said, "We'll transfer him. We'll put an order for him to be transferred to another prison. But wherever he goes, the rival gang exists. Wherever he goes, he's going to have a target on him." And so-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:08):
Do they all know him in all different prisons, [crosstalk 00:16:14]?
Beth Demme (16:14):
They all have their gang tattoos. I guess when you can read that, you know. So this guard was saying whatever prison he goes to, they're going to know he's whatever. I don't know how they communicate, but they do. They get the word around, apparently.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:29):
But he can't be transferred somewhere where his gang is also and would protect him?
Beth Demme (16:34):
This particular guard didn't think so. Didn't think that the guy stood a chance.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:39):
Does that mean gangs just exist every place?
Beth Demme (16:43):
I mean there for sure are gangs in Tallahassee. I don't know that they're everywhere, but I get the impression they kind of are, because people want to have a sense of belonging, and that's what gangs offer: belonging, protection.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:58):
That's interesting, though, because you can say the same thing about the church.
Beth Demme (17:01):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:02):
So why is it that people are drawn to these negative things? Because gangs-
Beth Demme (17:07):
Pretty bad. A gang is a bad thing. I think because people are also drawn to power, and I think the church is not perceived as offering power.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:17):
So it's like an easier way to become a politician. You can either be a politician in a politician gang or you can be in a street gang.
Beth Demme (17:24):
Right. Right, right.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:25):
It's the same concept.
Beth Demme (17:26):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:27):
Beth Demme (17:27):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:28):
And sleazy people.
Beth Demme (17:29):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:30):
Beth Demme (17:30):
Power, sleazy people, money.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:32):
Although gang people seem to be more in jails than politicians, even though it should probably be the same amount.
Beth Demme (17:39):
I think the politicians are probably better at adhering to the letter of the law. [crosstalk 00:17:43].
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:43):
No, they're better at getting around it. The FBI took down Tallahassee government. There is some junk going down right now. So there's trials happening right now with that.
Beth Demme (17:53):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:54):
There's a lot of bad people that probably will not get what they need to get because they know how to skirt around the law.
Beth Demme (18:02):
Yeah. I do think those are mostly economic crimes. I think a lot of times with gangs, it's actual physical harm to other people.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:11):
Yes, but you could even say the politicians' crimes are worse because it affects the whole community, what they're doing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:19):
Just because they're not actually putting a gun to someone's head, they're causing so much crime within just the choices they make. I mean I don't know the full story of what happened with the FBI, but I know that a lot of people are being implicated and did a lot of shady stuff and allowed developments to happen that shouldn't have happened.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:39):
And so, what happens when they develop poor areas and those people are kicked out, and then they have no way to live. Then they go to gangs. It's a full cycle. So I wouldn't say they're any different. They know how to work the system and they have the people to help them work the system, which ... I mean they're just as bad, if not worse.
Beth Demme (19:03):
Yeah, you're right. They create the conditions for the gangs to thrive and they create the conditions for desperation. They have a responsibility for that. You're right.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:16):
What was the saddest story you encountered in the hospital?
Beth Demme (19:20):
I had a night where I got paged by a nurse to come to the emergency room because there was a man who ... He was dying and he was alone. It was very hard to understand him, as you might imagine, when someone is dying, but he had asked for last rights, which is a phrase that a lot of people know whether they're Catholic or not, which is sort of like I want an end of life prayer.
Beth Demme (19:52):
So, of course, I went to the ER. It was probably around midnight maybe. He was able to say those words again, just say last rights. And so, I did. I prayed for him and prayed that he would feel released from any guilt or shame he was carrying and he would know that God was welcoming him with open arms. I don't remember exactly what I prayed, but that was the gist of it.
Beth Demme (20:20):
Then I didn't have anything else going on that night. It was a 24-hour shift. I was going to be there until 8:00 the next morning so I just sat with him. After maybe 30 or 40 minutes, he said, "Music." So I got my phone out and I played ... At first I played hymns because he was of an age where I thought that would be comforting to him, but he actually got a little bit agitated. So then I just switched to instrumental church music, instrumental ...
Beth Demme (20:54):
Then he really calmed down and I could tell that it was really soothing him. I was watching the monitors. After another hour or so, the nurse came in and said, "I can't believe he's still with us." We really thought this is the limit. The doctor came in, they both thanked me for sitting with him. I said, "Hey, I'll be here all night. It's no problem. Whether I sit here or over in the sleep room, it's the same to me."
Beth Demme (21:21):
And so, I was having this really sacred time. I ended up sitting with him for several hours. Then they said, "Well, we can't just keep him in the ER. We're going to start making arrangements to transfer him to a regular room."
Beth Demme (21:33):
While I was still sitting with him, at about ... I don't remember exactly what time. Maybe 5:00 that morning. They hadn't transferred him to a regular room yet. I got a page that we had multiple traumas coming in.
Beth Demme (21:51):
There was a lot of confusion at first about exactly who was coming in, but what it turned out to be was a teenager who had snuck out during the night, taken their mother's car, picked up a couple of friends, and then had an accident. One person died at the scene and two folks came into the hospital, one with injuries, one who was pretty much okay. The driver was pretty much okay. They were wearing their seatbelt.
Beth Demme (22:23):
So I spent the rest of my shift going between the injured passenger and the driver, and navigating my way around police officers who really wanted to question the driver. But I had all of these conflicting feelings as a mom and as a lawyer and as a chaplain. I was like, "He's 15. Should the police be questioning him without another person present, an adult present?"
Beth Demme (22:54):
But what was really sad was, of course, that someone had died at the scene. But then the passenger who came in ended up being on life support. A couple of days later, her family made the really courageous decision to allow organ donation. Then she passed away at the end of that week.
Beth Demme (23:21):
That was very sad. It was very different than being with a senior citizen who is in his last hour, who actually did end up passing away while I was going between the kids. They never did transfer him to a regular room. It was very different. Being with him, knowing that he had had a chance for a full life, many years, many decades, and then being with a teenager.
Beth Demme (23:51):
It was also sad because the medical staff becomes ... They become a little family. You could just see the toll that it took on them to have a young person not make it. That was really hard. That was a really sad one.
Beth Demme (24:10):
I also had a really sad situation and I ended up basically turning it over to another chaplain. Because of the way my shifts worked out, I really wasn't going to be there. But a case of either child neglect or child abuse, I'm not sure exactly where that line was, where it was an infant who passed away. That was really sad.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:31):
How many deaths do you think you saw in your time in there?
Beth Demme (24:35):
A lot. I wasn't typically in the room when someone actually transitioned, but to be with them or be with their family right before ... And sometimes family members would say, "You don't have to stay. Thank you for coming, but you don't have to stay." That's totally understandable that they wouldn't want a stranger there at that moment of transition. So a lot of times right before or right after.
Beth Demme (25:02):
So anytime actually someone passes away in the hospital, the chaplain is called. The folks in charge, the nursing supervisor, they'll page and say, "We had a death in such and such room and family is present." And so, you go and offer them some, I don't know, really the ministry of presence, just to be there to say, "I'm standing here to say you're going to get through this. You're going to be okay." You don't have to say any of that. You just can be there.
Beth Demme (25:27):
So I don't know how many, but a lot. I mean I don't think I had a shift ever where there wasn't at least one or two.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:36):
Have you ever seen someone at that moment when someone, I guess, transitions?
Beth Demme (25:41):
I don't think I was ever there for the exact moment. I mainly remember times when I came in, like right after, and observing how different families respond to grief differently, the adult child who is wailing in distress and pain. They're in agony over the loss of their parent. Or the wife who her husband has just passed and she's like, "Okay, I have to hold it together. There are things that have to get done."
Beth Demme (26:16):
One night, this was another overnight shift and I was in the ER. A woman came in and I sat with her for a couple of hours. She just kept telling me she didn't even know anyone else.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:31):
What does that mean?
Beth Demme (26:32):
Her husband was the only person she knew.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:36):
Beth Demme (26:36):
They had moved to Tallahassee shortly before COVID. And so, they hadn't met any of their neighbors and they were COVID-cautious. She even said he had been sick for a couple of days, but they didn't want to come to the hospital because they didn't want to get COVID. But then they had waited too long to get him the medical care that he needed.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:55):
What did he die from?
Beth Demme (26:57):
I think it was a cardiac issue, but I don't totally know. She was just distraught over, "I don't know what to do." She was from another country. And so, she didn't know about ... She'd lived in the US a long time, but she'd never planned a funeral or made arrangements with a funeral home, which is why would you? It's not like an everyday experience.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:21):
Beth Demme (27:22):
So just remembering the depth of her grief. Then the other grief story that really sticks with me is we had someone who was a police officer, not here locally. But the hospital I was working at is a regional trauma center. Folks would get helicoptered in from all different places.
Beth Demme (27:42):
And so, there was an officer who had been shot in the line of duty. I was with him and with his wife. He was also one of the few cases where I was there as they were performing CPR, which is a terrible thing to see. It's just not like on TV. It's just terrible.
Beth Demme (28:06):
The statistics for actual recovery, like where you leave the hospital after you have needed CPR, they're dismal. Most people don't rebound if they've gotten to the point that they need CPR.
Beth Demme (28:21):
So they had performed CPR and they had been able to stabilize him. So a few hours later, I came back and I was with his wife. She just shared with me some of the fear of being married to someone who was in law enforcement and just some of her fear about if he were to pass, how her life would change.
Beth Demme (28:43):
Anyway, ultimately she had a friend come in and she said, "Okay, well, I can sit with her now. You don't need to stay," so I left. Within maybe an hour of me leaving, he had passed. So I went back. Just the depth of her grief and also watching her try to hold it together, knowing that there were a lot of details to attend to.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:05):
How did you deal with the mental turmoil that you were going through and the grief that you experienced? How did you deal with yourself?
Beth Demme (29:12):
At the risk of sounding like a lunatic, I really feel like I was supernaturally protected from some of it because I was able to not completely detach, because that's not healthy either, but to go, "Okay, that's not me. I'm practicing the ministry of presence. I'm here as a calming, non-anxious presence, but this is not my grief to carry." And so, I didn't.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:46):
What's your biggest takeaway from your time as a chaplain?
Beth Demme (29:49):
You know I love self-awareness. That's part of our deal. It was a time when I learned a lot about myself, that I tend to over-function, that I really have to watch that, that I think a lot about what other people are expecting of me. So what are they expecting me to say? Are they expecting me to offer a prayer? Are they expecting me to offer scripture? I'm thinking a lot about that, which really then takes you out of the moment. Then you can't just be present to be curious about them and to offer yourself to them. So that was my biggest takeaway is that I still have a lot of work to do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:37):
Did you experience anyone being thrown off because you're a woman chaplain? Was there any issues with that?
Beth Demme (30:44):
Yeah. So that came up a couple of ways, and people were funny about it because they thought they weren't being really subtle. But one time I did have a person say ... And I had been with them for a long time.
Beth Demme (30:56):
This was actually a hard visit that had been with them during. It was a family situation where there was some conflict between the patient and the family, and the patient very much wanted somebody to be on their side and the family very much wanted somebody to be on their side. And so, I was being triangulated between the two. It was a difficult visit.
Beth Demme (31:21):
Then as I'm wrapping it up, like, "I got to get myself out of here," one of the family members says, "What denomination are you? Like what kind of ... ?" I was like, "Well, here at the hospital, that doesn't matter. But I just happen to be a United Methodist pastor." "Oh," they said. "I just have never met a woman pastor before so I just didn't know." I was like, "Yeah, I get that." Anyway, it came up that way a couple of times, like, "I've never met a woman pastor."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:55):
Beth Demme (31:55):
Never ugly or aggressive. "Who do you think you are?" None of that ever. Every once in a while, someone would say that they really wanted to have ... Particularly folks who are Roman Catholic, they would say, "I'd really would like to have my priest." I wondered sometimes if that was a gender thing, but I always said, "No problem. Which parish do you belong to? I would be happy to call. Of course, here's your phone. You could call them, too. Every room has a phone."
Beth Demme (32:24):
So I would always make that phone call for them and just explain the situation to their priest and invite them to come. Sometimes it would be an end-of-life situation and the family would be saying, "Well, we really want the priest to come, but we've already had our COVID permitted number of visitors for the day." I could help them. There are end-of-life exceptions for those kinds of things. And so, I could help them navigate that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:50):
Would the priest normally come?
Beth Demme (32:52):
It depended on the church. There were some churches that we knew it won't matter how much I call, they're not going to come. So there's actually another Catholic church in town that they would always come.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:08):
Did you see that racial discrepancies when you were working at the hospital?
Beth Demme (33:11):
I don't think I really did, but I did have a colleague who is an African American woman, who shared with me some of what she saw. I think that just because of her life experience and because of her frame of reference, she was able to see it more clearly than I was. And so, I tried to be more alert to it and more aware of it.
Beth Demme (33:33):
The biggest way that race came up for me in my time in the hospital was that I sometimes wondered ... If the patient I was going to see was an African American man, I wondered if my race made him uncomfortable. I wondered, is this going to be a barrier? Because I think there's a pretty good history of ... At least stories, at least anecdotes of White women accusing Black men of doing things that they didn't do. And so, is there going to be some level of fear?
Beth Demme (34:08):
So I worked really hard to put folks at ease. I would leave the door open and then I would say, "Is it okay with you if I close the door?" I would try to do some of those extra things to really make it clear that they were in control of their space and it was up to them whether or not I was there and that I wanted to be there and I was on their side, some of those things. That was the biggest way that race came into play for me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:35):
What was the breakdown of patients that you saw?
Beth Demme (34:38):
My impression is that it was probably 60-50, 60% White, 40% Black. I don't really remember having any Asian patients or folks from like ... Oh, I did have some Hispanic patients, a couple of gentlemen particularly, one who I really wanted to visit with, I really wanted to talk to, and he seemed to have a super interesting story, but he didn't speak English, and I didn't know enough Spanish. There are translation services that are easily available, but he didn't really want spiritual care and I didn't feel like I should get the translator on the phone just because I was so curious, because he had been gored by a bull. I really-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:22):
Beth Demme (35:23):
No, he had been life-flighted in. I just really want to know the story about that. Oh, I can't call the translator just because I'm nosy.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:30):
Where was he brought from?
Beth Demme (35:32):
Actually, I think he might've been brought just from Gadsden County.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:35):
My gosh. What?
Beth Demme (35:36):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:36):
Was he bullfighting?
Beth Demme (35:38):
He didn't say that he was bullfighting-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:40):
Oh my goodness.
Beth Demme (35:40):
... but, like I said, my Spanish is pretty bad. So I got bull out. But he was exhausted and-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:48):
You got bull out.
Beth Demme (35:49):
Yeah, I figured out bull. I figured out that he was a widower. He was carrying a lot of grief.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:53):
Beth Demme (35:54):
It has not been long since his wife had passed. I don't know, a few months.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:57):
You knew that much Spanish to understand that?
Beth Demme (36:00):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:00):
Beth Demme (36:01):
But I never got the whole story on the bull.
Beth Demme (36:04):
We had a couple come in overnight. They were on their ... Or was it late at night, like 10:00 or 11:00. They had been on a motorcycle and they had run into a bear.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:13):
Beth Demme (36:14):
Because they couldn't see it. It was a dark road. When I went in, a couple ... I don't know if they were married, but a man and a woman. He was taken from the ER to be taken for scans, for x-rays and CT and all that.
Beth Demme (36:28):
He had been wearing a beaded necklace that had a cross on it and the beads were all over the floor of the trauma bay. So I picked them all up and gathered the cross and put it in a little bag for him. But I was like, well, a cross. He might especially want to see a chaplain.
Beth Demme (36:44):
He was being cared for by medical professionals for a long time. And so, I didn't get in to see him. But I went to see the woman. I told her, I was like, "I picked up the cross and the beads," and she said, "Yeah, I'm sure that he'll want to talk to you, but I'm okay."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:00):
Beth Demme (37:01):
Okay. So I'm like, "Okay." Well, talking to a chaplain's not her jam, that's okay. I'm not going to force myself into the situation.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:09):
That's interesting that you say that because I have a cross tattoo on my ankle. So if I was ever in that kind of situation, I bet they would probably be like, "Cross down here, get a chaplain."
Beth Demme (37:21):
They probably would. They probably would.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:23):
"Get a chaplain in here."
Beth Demme (37:23):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:25):
Well, speaking of that actually, when I was in the mental hospital, I did have a chaplain. So I did actually get to experience what that was like. But my crazy story was the chaplain that was working at the main hospital was somebody that I knew from Tallahassee. It was such a ... Definitely a God thing that it happened.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:48):
But the old youth director, I think he was in school to be a chaplain. I think he was still part doing his schooling for that, or to be a pastor. He's a pastor now.
Beth Demme (37:57):
He is. He was doing exactly what I was doing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:59):
Beth Demme (37:59):
He was doing his CPE rotation.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:00):
Yes, exactly. And so, he was a chaplain there in Orlando, and he was just the best. He came to see me when I was actually at the hospital, at the mental hospital. He brought me clothes because I didn't have any clothes. I only had shorts and a T-shirt and it was freezing cold. He went above and beyond. Obviously, he knew me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:25):
But also when I was in the mental hospital, they also had a chaplain that was assigned to that specific area that I did talk with. It was fine, but I definitely got more out of someone that knew me.
Beth Demme (38:38):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:38):
Exactly. But I'm so glad that hospital systems have that because I think that's so important to have that.
Beth Demme (38:45):
Yeah, and not all of them do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:46):
Beth Demme (38:47):
I mean we have two big hospitals in town, only one of them has a spiritual care department.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:52):
Beth Demme (38:52):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:53):
Is that because one is nonprofit?
Beth Demme (38:57):
I think it's probably a funding issue. There were a couple of times when I went in and I would say to someone ... I tried to say, "I'm from the spiritual care department," and then they would say, "What?" "I'm a chaplain." There were a couple of times where people were like, "Why did they send in a chaplain? What's happening? Are you here to give me bad news?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:17):
Beth Demme (39:17):
"No, no, no. Not at all. Not at all. Not at all." There are a couple of people, like I can still see their faces and I can see the terror on their faces that they thought I was coming in, I guess, to tell them they were dying or something. I don't know. That wasn't my role at all.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:31):
Can you imagine?
Beth Demme (39:31):
I have no medical information. I don't deliver diagnoses.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:35):
They hire chaplains to give the bad news to people. "I'm the chaplain. You're dying."
Beth Demme (39:40):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:40):
"But God is real and we will keep you ... "
Beth Demme (39:43):
Right. "You're dying. Would you like to get right with God right now?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:45):
Beth Demme (39:46):
No, no, no.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:47):
Actually, did you have anybody that accepted Christ during your time, or was it people that already were Christians?
Beth Demme (39:55):
Yeah. I mean people seem to already have their foundational faith beliefs. I had a lot of people ... Not a lot. I had some people at least who wanted to know like, "Am I okay with God? Is God okay with me?"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:09):
Do you tell them yes?
Beth Demme (40:10):
And I was like-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:11):
"I have the authority to say yes."
Beth Demme (40:13):
I was like, "Well, I'm going to need some more information." No, I always said-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:17):
"How much you smoke each week? Okay. How much do you drink? Okay."
Beth Demme (40:21):
"How much do you tithe? Oh, wow!"
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:23):
Oh yeah, sorry. Tithe is first. Tithe is first. How do I forget that?
Beth Demme (40:27):
Yeah. That's just an opportunity to ask more questions. Well, where do you think you stand with God? What does that even mean to you? What does [crosstalk 00:40:37]?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:37):
Just to clarify, those three things we just said was a joke.
Beth Demme (40:40):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:41):
That was funny because that is not how you get right with God is money and-
Beth Demme (40:45):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:45):
... whether you drink or not. None of that is accurate.
Beth Demme (40:47):
None of that, no. God is not a third grade teacher. He's not keeping track of demerits.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:52):
Sometimes I don't know if we're clear when we're being-
Beth Demme (40:55):
That's a good point. What do you call that term when you're ... Sarcastic.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:59):
Beth Demme (41:01):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:01):
Yes, we should have a sarcastic sound effect.
Beth Demme (41:04):
Oh, we should.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:05):
That would be fun. What would be a good sound effect for that?
Beth Demme (41:06):
We could. We could have a sound effect.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:07):
That maybe was too much. That was maybe too much. We'll come up with a sarcastic sound effect so when we're being sarcastic, we'll make it very clear. So after all that, would you do it again?
Beth Demme (41:19):
Absolutely. Absolutely. I was really grateful for what I learned about myself and what I learned about my understanding of my pastoral identity and the issues that I need to be working on.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:30):
Is it actual profession or is it always people that are interning?
Beth Demme (41:34):
Oh, that's a really good question. No, there are professional, like board-certified chaplains. In fact, at that hospital where I was, there was the program director who had a couple of decades of chaplain experience. But then there were five or six full-time folks who were full-time chaplains. That was their training. That was their calling. That was-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (41:58):
Do they get paid by the hospital?
Beth Demme (42:00):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:00):
So are they hospital staff?
Beth Demme (42:02):
Yup, hospitals staff.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:03):
Beth Demme (42:08):
We have so much fun making this podcast, and we've heard from some of you that you're wondering what is the best way to support us. So we've decided to expand the podcast experience using buymeacoffee.com. You can go there and buy us a cup of coffee or, for Steph, a cup of tea, or you can actually become a monthly supporter. That will give you access to PDFs of the questions for reflection, as well as pictures, outtakes, polls, and more.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:32):
The kinds of things that we would put on social media if we had a social media channel, but we actually don't for the podcast, because we decided from the beginning that we didn't want to add to more white noise in your life. So one of the great things about Buy Me A Coffee is that you'll be able to actually get an email when we post new content. You can go straight there and you don't have to deal with ads or being bombarded with other content. You see exactly the content you're looking for without a bunch of distractions.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (42:55):
We plan to post probably like once or twice a week, and we're excited to get your feedback as members on our Buy Me A Coffee page, which we are lovingly calling our BMAC page.
Beth Demme (43:04):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:06):
So you'll be able to find a link in our description to find out more and to sign up. I want to remind you that we have a lot of links in our description of our podcast. We actually spend a good amount of time. Beth is awesome. She writes the descriptions of every episode. We have links to our website where we have the full transcript of every episode so you can read it. We also have our show notes and all the stuff.
Beth Demme (43:36):
Links to our BMAC page where you can get PDFs of the questions for reflection.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:40):
Exactly. So if you click on the description, you can see all of that. We have it for every episode.
Beth Demme (43:47):
If you happen to be listening on Apple Podcast, you could also just go right past the description to where you could give us a five-star rating. We would really appreciate that if you're enjoying the podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (43:56):
That would be amazing. So, Beth, I have a question for you. What TV show, podcast, book, or purchase are you excited about right now?
Beth Demme (44:08):
Well, I did have a big purchase this week. Thanks for asking. So my husband is a car guy. He loves cars. I told him a while back ... Actually this has come up from time to time, but a while back, I was like, "Okay, I'm really serious about this. If you're just going to be randomly shopping for cars, you might as well shop for a fun car that I want," which is a 1980s era Chevy pickup truck. He found one and we went this week and bought it and brought it home.
Beth Demme (44:41):
It's red. It's a 1987 Chevy R10 Stepside. If you happen to know cars and you're like, "She's crazy. It's not an R10," it was a C10, except for 1987. They called it an R10.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:53):
Oh my gosh.
Beth Demme (44:53):
Don't come at me, bro.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (44:54):
Okay. Wow! I don't think those bros are listening, but if you are, hey, we will put a link. We need to show a picture. We'll put a picture on the BMAC page-
Beth Demme (45:03):
Yes. Yes, I'll put a link on it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:04):
... of your new purchase. What is her name?
Beth Demme (45:06):
I think her name is going to ... I'm afraid to say because I'm only 99% sure, but I think her name is going to be Ruby Mae.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:14):
Oh, Ruby Mae.
Beth Demme (45:15):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:15):
Beth Demme (45:16):
She's red, bright red.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:17):
And you got her in July, which is the birthstone of-
Beth Demme (45:20):
Oh, is it?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:21):
Yeah, Rubyius. July.
Beth Demme (45:23):
Oh, that's even better. I didn't know that. My middle name before I got married was Mae, M-A-E. And so, I like that. She's a Florida truck. She's always lived in Florida and I've always lived in Florida. So we just have a lot in common, Ruby Mae and I.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:41):
Beth Demme (45:42):
I'll put a picture. That'll be good. That'll be good. She's really just fun. I have fun with her.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (45:49):
At the end of each episode, we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between. You can also find a PDF of them on our Buy Me A Coffee page.
Beth Demme (46:00):
Number one, have you ever done something that was completely outside of your normal job or everyday life? Number two, who was the most surprising person you've ever met? Number three, have you spoken to someone who was incarcerated and asked about their experience? Would you be willing to do that? Number four, have you met someone whose story deeply affected you? Reflect on that person and their story.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (46:28):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars Podcast. Thank you for joining us.