My sister, Jenette Blair Lambert, will become a chaplain tomorrow, July 30. She was featured in a news story on KSL (Salt Lake) tonight–because she is a first.
This is from Carol Mikita’s story:
“As chaplains, we probably see ourselves not as the healer as much as we are the conduit for healing. We bring up the spiritual. We bring up belief and purpose and meaning,” Lambert said.
Every chaplain belongs to a particular faith. Lambert is a Latter-day Saint, but reaches out in a nondenominational way. She also counsels veterans who suffer with poor mental health.
“She is pioneering new ground. She’s not only a female chaplain, which in the LDS tradition is sort of new, but she is a nurse and a psychiatric nurse at that. She’s been paving a new trail,” said Mark Allison, supervising chaplain at the VA Med Center.
Of course, I cried when I watched the story about my sister. I am so proud of her. She has never sought any kind of special attention (I’m the one who did that), but has quietly served. Granted, I did make her tin foil crowns when we were children and named her “Miss Cedar Avenue,” but throughout her life, Jen has given her gifts without much fanfare. For years, she was a hospice worker, preparing patients and families for death; administering pain medication to make the departure as comfortable as possible; leading parents or children into the chambers of grief and then staying with them as they began accepting death, even recognizing beauty in its calm pronouncement of a finished life. Jen has always been a giver of comfort. As a patient prepared to leave mortality, Jen was there as a gentle angel, a veil worker on the earthly side. Now, she will bring her faith as well as her nursing skills to Salt Lake’s VA hospital.
One of my heroes, Elder Marion D. Hanks, was also a chaplain–in the military service. I thought of him when Jen first announced that she had decided to make a career shift. Both Elder Hanks and my sister have a way with the one. Even as Elder Hanks has declined, it has brought me to tears when he has taken my hand, looked me in the eye, and simply said my name. I wonder how many wounded or dying soldiers Elder Hanks cared for, how many names he learned, how many hands he held to give the human touch–sometimes the last human touch.
But of course, there’s that other thing about my sister’s new role: she’ll be a FEMALE Mormon chaplain. How cool is that? As Mark Alison says in the news story, “In the LDS tradition, that’s sort of new.” I love the idea of a woman (and Jen in particular) approaching souls in need and asking if they’d like her to pray with them. I loved that KSL showed my sister praying with a patient.
Jen will know the names of all those she cares for. She will honor the various religious traditions her patients have. And she won’t need to tell them she’s a woman of faith. That will come through without a word.