Sacred Stories | The Gift of Time in the Giving Garden

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have required us to draw on our mission, vision and values as daily sources of comfort. Recently, we had the opportunity to serve a patient who had an independent spirit and loved the outdoors. In fact, he loved to spend countless hours in forested mountains. Although he was not a religious person, he had consistently found peace within nature. Unfortunately, he had not seen the outdoors for weeks; because our hospital had an increased need for negative pressure rooms during the pandemic, his ICU room did not have a window.

In conversation with his family and treatment team, the patient decided to focus on comfort care. While he was at peace with his decision, our staff felt called to care for his spirit as well as his body. Recognizing the importance of nature as an expression of his spirituality, we collaborated to give him some time outdoors in the hospital’s Giving Garden. Although the logistics were challenging, we were determined.

The patient’s nurse, along with the chaplain and palliative care coordinator, focused on clinical support. The security team ensured the path to the garden was easily accessible and added a special touch: a patio umbrella to offer shade. The maintenance team provided support to ensure a gentle transition outside. Infection prevention staff and the transport team shared items that made the time outside more comfortable.

The patient and his family came with open hearts filled with gratitude for time together in the outdoors, even as they grieved their anticipated loss. Together, we created a sacred space for them to spend precious time together.

It was sunny and hot, providing warmth for our patient. A gentle breeze allowed the birch trees to show off their glistening leaves in shades of green. There was an essence of tranquility and comfort. The beauty that surrounded us modeled the verse, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” For just a few moments, time stood still and all was well.

Through this encounter we reexperienced our call to serve, which gives us the strength and compassion to care for each patient in body, mind, and spirit. It re-energized our sense of purpose at a time when we often felt overwhelmed and helpless to ease pain and suffering.

The timing of the garden visit was profound, as our patient died peacefully later that day. His family expressed deep appreciation for the care they received. They were especially grateful for the gift of time in the garden, surrounded by nature’s beauty.

Together we work hard to live our mission every day. We strive to show compassion, respect for the dignity of each person, and the power of collaboration. On that particular summer day, it was inspirational to work together to bring joy to our patient and his family.

May God continue to work through us in this special ministry of healing that has been entrusted to all of us.

Submitted by Kristine Ehlert and Leslie Smart

Questions for Reflection

In what ways do we collaborate with others and demonstrate our common spirit to those we serve?

How can nature renew your spirit in the midst of a challenging day?

About Sacred Stories

As CommonSpirit Health, we make the healing presence of God known in our world by improving the health of
the people we serve, especially those who are vulnerable, while we advance social justice for all.

Sacred Stories convey ways our mission is being lived out by the gifted people in our ministry. We invite you to
use these stories for inspiration, as a meeting reflection, or to encourage discussion with your team.

If you have experienced God’s healing presence in your work, and are considering submitting a Sacred Story, please review our Sacred Story Guidelines and online submission form.