Providing solace to patients

  • Comforting place: patients and volunteers after a Thursday service at the chapel at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (Photograph supplied)
  • Soothing voice: chapel volunteer Joan Pike Daniels, left, with Martha Harvey of the Continuing Care Unit (Photograph supplied)

There are times in life when you need to cling tighter to your faith.

The chapel at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital has given solace to patients and their families for decades.

Established by the Hospitals Auxiliary of Bermuda in the old wing of the Point Finger Road facility, it provides a sanctuary for people of all denominations, seven days a week.

Martha Harvey, a patient in the Continuing Care Unit, attends the 2.30pm Thursday service run by HAB volunteers each week.

“I come to the chapel because I like the atmosphere,” the 77-year-old said. “It’s nice — the people, the music, everything. It keeps me going and gives me the encouragement to get up instead of laying in my room all day.

“My grandson brought me down here one day and I kept coming because it gives me hope and the volunteers don’t forget you.”

HAB volunteer Esther Pitt got involved 18 years ago after seeing how much of a blessing the religious space was to patients.

“One day I decided to bring [my cousin] over here to pray and worship God. She was staying in the old hospital and wasn’t mobile, so I would take her to and fro,” the 73-year-old said. “It was during that time I was asked by Ms Joyce Todd, the former chairperson of the chapel services, to lend a hand. I’ve been helping ever since.”

Ms Pitt attended Devonshire Christ Church with her family as a child. They lived just across the street from the church yard and she fondly remembers playing under the pulpit with her dolls.

“My faith has always been something I turned to all my life. I’ve spent most of my life serving seniors and now I’m a senior myself,” she said.

“We typically have between two and ten patients at our weekly service. Some patients come every week, while our volunteers come out rain, blow or shine. I see the patients even on my off days; sometimes I come down on a Tuesday just to sit and visit with them.”

People of all ages attend, one of the regular worshippers is 103 years old. The Thursday services offer a Bible-based messages, hymns and communion, on special weeks.

Volunteer Joan Pike Daniels has seen first-hand how the space can help others.

“Life can be stressful, especially for those in a hospital,” she said. “You might have to bring your mother or father in here due to something terminal, or might have a family member who was feeling down and needed a quiet space to reflect. That’s what this chapel is all about. It’s for staff, patients, family, friends — anyone that wants to come in to have a dedicated place to pray and listen to God.

“If you’re depressed, or someone you know and love is really ill, you can come. It isn’t just for Thursdays at 2.30pm, the door is open every day. We can feel the presence of the Lord here and no matter what you’re facing you can express how you’re feeling.”

Ms Daniels, 83, started volunteering with the chapel after retiring six years ago.

“I thought it would give me time just to come in and do good work, help to bring the patients over so they could take time out to give God praise and glory at least once a week.

“They always need volunteers to come and help them, to go and collect the patients from the hospital wings and to fellowship with them, to sing and pray with them, and they are so blessed by what we do.

“Most of the patients we see have been here for a long time — weeks, months or even years — and it’s just nice to take time out to give God praise for simple things like waking them up in the morning. He protected them. Even though they may not be able to do those things they used to do, they are grateful.”

It’s been rewarding for Ms Daniels to see the patients’ faces light up when a favourite hymn is played or a powerful message is being shared. She feels the ministry has strengthened her faith walk as well.

“Sometimes I think I may be blessed by watching them, more than they are by coming. It’s a blessing to serve. I think as a Christian that’s what we do. It’s not about us, but rather letting others know that Jesus loves them because they can get depressed or discouraged. Our job is to remind them that God hasn’t forgotten them. He will always be there even until the end of this life.”

She’s thankful that she is strong, healthy and mobile enough to volunteer every week.

“As long as I have life and can walk around I will continue to give and help others,” she said. “I attend Bethel AME in Shelly Bay. I know from my faith that God wants us to give, especially as believers, and to go out and help others who can’t help themselves. To give and lift up His name — that’s important.

“Through this ministry, He has taught me to be humble because it could be me in one of these hospital beds. I try to be humble and thankful for all He is doing for me because I never know when my situation could change. It gives them a little lift when you take the time and energy out to see them.”

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