Chaplain Michael Hansen does what he can for the soul after doctors and nurses have done all they can for the body.

Hospitals are bookends for humanity, ushering in new life and saying the final goodbye to it. Yet the passing of a loved one is difficult to prepare for, even when the signs are there. From arranging final communions to opening up about his own faith, Chaplain Hansen at Parker Adventist Hospital tries to meet people where they are and practice the art of gently experiencing the end of life.

“What most people want is just to have someone nearby,” Hansen explains. “My job is not to preach, but to listen and, if prompted, share my views on faith and the afterlife.”

Board certified chaplains follow certain guidelines, although in an Adventist hospital like Parker, Hansen has more room to talk openly and honestly to patients about spiritual matters.

“Every death is unique and it only happens once for people, making it a sacred experience,” he says.

Requests like having a final communion are moments when Hansen can help ensure a sacred goodbye.

Two years ago a patient, very lucid but ready to die, made the decision to go off life support. Hospital staff arranged for a small ceremony with bread and grape juice. A harpist was unexpectedly playing in the room as well—making it even more special. With family gathered around, a prayer was offered and communion was shared.

Some final moments are tougher than others. “A man came in who had left God and his affiliation with the Seventh-day Adventist church many years ago. He and his wife had gone to Mile High Adventist Academy, where my kids attend. Facing serious health issues, he asked me if God would take him back.”

This opened up a conversation about faith and God. Here was a chance to meet this person where he was. The door had opened for redemption, and emphasizing God’s love for the man, Hansen’s last interaction with the patient was overwhelmingly positive.

Meeting them where they are is not strictly spiritual. “A big part of my job is being present both for the patient and the families,” says Hansen, adding that many times people will ask what they should say or how they should help someone who is dying. “I always tell them that people will care far more about who was with them than what was said.”

Often severely ill patients wait for the right person to come or leave before passing away. After 10 years as a chaplain Hansen concludes that patients have some control over when they go. “Some people need a family member to tell them it’s okay to die. Some need to hear a prayer.”

Hansen can say goodbye if no relative or friend is there.

“Sometimes being present with another in their pain and loss is the greatest gift one can give,” says Stephen King, senior vice president for mission and ministry for the Rocky Mountain Adventist Health System/Centura Health. “Being the hands of Christ—in whatever form is necessary—is part of the sacred work of chaplains, employees and physicians in an Adventist hospital, and a way to bring hope even in the face of death.”


This article was submitted by Stephen King, senior vice president for mission and ministry for the Rocky Mountain Adventist Health System/Centura Health, where he serves the five Adventist hospital campuses in Colorado. It was written by CMBell Company.