Reverend Daryl Jacobson says it’s a blessing to support seniors and their families through joy and loss. “You see them face tough circumstances and so many of them are able to meet the challenges and rise above those circumstances of life,” says Daryl, who spent thirty years in pastoral ministry before becoming a chaplain at Lakewood Health Systems in Staples seven years ago.
Daryl works with residents in the care center, in hospice, in home care and in the hospital. It can be challenging to cope with the amount of loss he encounters, says Daryl, but he loves connecting with people and hearing their stories. “I help them work through areas of need in their lives, whether it’s reconciliation with family or addressing fears or concerns that they have as they near end of life. I find a great deal of satisfaction in that.”
Daryl recognizes that some people are reluctant to involve him as a chaplain for fear of him trying to convince them of something rather than supporting them where they are. “I’m not there to convince them of my beliefs,” says Daryl. “I’m there to be alongside them. It really is a patient and family-driven ministry. What’s in their hearts? What’s their need?”
So many people Daryl has served have impacted his own life. “One of the most amazing stories was a couple—she had Alzheimer’s, and her husband spent years caring for her,” says Daryl. “It was about twelve or thirteen years of progression. His comment to me was, ‘This is what I signed up for. I made a commitment in sickness and in health and this is what it means.’ To see the depth of his love and care for his wife touched my life.”
Working as a nursing home chaplain has helped Daryl appreciate the importance of preparing and having conversations. “It’s important to be willing to have open, honest, difficult conversations with those closest to you,” says Daryl, reflecting on a gentleman he served who had ALS and recently passed away. “He was very honest and met it head-on. He didn’t want his loved ones to have to make decisions for him – and what a gift that was to his significant other. It’s hard enough going through grief, but when you have to make decisions for your loved one too, it’s very difficult. He made sure he made those decisions for her in advance.”
Aging touches all of us, emphasizes Daryl. “To be able to look at our lives in light of the fact that we are mortal, and to be able to have those conversations, can relieve a lot of anxiety and enrich the journey.”