MY VNA EXPERIENCE
I took a sabbatical in 2002 after my heart surgery and during that year I heard of an End of Life Training program in San Francisco run by Frank Ostaseski, the founder of a small Buddhist Hospice. He invited 25 health care professionals from all over the country to meet once a month for four days over a 12 month period – nurses, doctors, social workers, volunteers, and chaplains. I enrolled in that course in September of 2002. I connected with the VNA Hospice in NJ to do my field work during this program.
Upon graduation, I asked the VNA if I could be a part time chaplain with them. And six months into my work with them, I proposed to the Director, that I offer Reiki to the clients along with my chaplaincy ministry. She had me meet with the Board of Directors to receive their approval. They approved a trial run to see how it was received.
I began by offering to teach Reiki to any nurses or staff who were interested. About six people responded. I also offered a treatment to the Director, who put it off at first. I told her when she was really stressed out to call me. It didn’t take long. She called me and had a session after a stressful morning and became a believer.
I continued working as a chaplain and would offer Reiki whenever a nurse made a referral. This was slow at first and then the nurses began to see it was making a difference with the clients and with caregivers as well and began to make more referrals to such an extent that I was working more as a Reiki practitioner than a chaplain. And eventually we hired a second practitioner and then a third because of the number of responsive clients. But we were all part time – so it was equivalent to a little over one full time person.
I would like to share some of my hospice experiences:
The Story of Jim
One day a nurse called me to tell me a man was at the end of life and had a lot of anxiety and would I come to give him a treatment. I had very little conversation with him but took the time to tell him what I would be doing. It did not take long before he went into a deep Reiki slumber.
The next day the nurse called to tell me that his wife had called to say that he would like me to return. I once again offered Reiki to him and again he went into a deep Reiki slumber. The nurse called me the next day and told me that he died 12 hours after the session and before dying he had reconciled with his son and had died peacefully surrounded with lots of love from his family.
The Story of Sarah
Sarah, a Jewish woman in her 60’s, was distraught over her diagnosis
and had spoken to the social worker several times. The social worker felt she was stuck and more words from her would not help. She called me to be with her – “looking for anything that would help.” When I arrived I sat beside Sarah on the couch, I told her I would like to play some music for her and would like to place my hands lightly on her body. Almost immediately as I began, she had an emotional release, crying out “I have everything to live for – a beautiful family and wonderful grandchildren.”
The social worker went in to see her later that day and said she was alert, verbal and calm and asked for some french fries. I saw her about seven times after that. Each time she was more and more relaxed and seemingly more peaceful. In the later visits she began to lay on the couch for the sessions and was always in a deep sleep when I left.
After she passed, her family told me that she had told them after my visits she had always felt “like a new person.” The family said they had referred to me as the Voodo Doctor – but knew whatever I was doing was helping.
The Story of Jack
Jack was a construction worker and had a rough exterior. He was a Roman Catholic but had refused to see the Chaplain. He had cancer of the esophagus and was a very quiet reserved man. The Nurse asked me to come in to give him Reiki.
We had very little conversation. I offered him Reiki as he layed on the couch. He did not seem to have any external reaction to the session. I came back for a second session the next week and he seemed to be much more open to receive it. And he went into a deep sleep shortly after I began.
The next day the Nurse called me and told me
- He was like a changed man
- He said he had never felt so good in his life
- He was so happy I had given him the treatment
- It took him to another place – a peaceful calm place
- And he felt so much better for it.
The fear and anxiety he had exhibited earlier in the week was no longer there. He asked for a priest and received the last sacraments. I gave him one more treatment before he died a few days later. He had called to his wife during the night She came out to be with him while he was laying on the couch. And when she went back to bed, he passed quietly.
My rational mind always seeks an explanation.
But the bottom line seems to be over and over again that this very spiritual energy travels to where it is most needed on a physical, emotional, spiritual or mental level for the person’s highest good.
I do nothing. The person does nothing.
The Story of a Nurse
Joan, one of our nurses from the VNA, had valiantly fought cancer for a number of years while continuing her work serving others. At the end of her life she had a lot of anxiety and knew of Reiki but had never experienced it. She had reached a point where she was willing to give it a try although she could not understand it or see any reason why it would be helpful.
The family asked me to come and Joan was open to it. She found that it put her in another place – a very peaceful and relaxed place. She asked me to continue coming as often as I could.
One day when I arrived, I realized that she was in the dying process. The family had surrounded her bed. I indicated I would do whatever they wished me to do. They said they would like me to do Reiki for her as it was something she had told them made such a difference for her.
The family left the room although normally one or two of them stayed. I began offering her Reiki while a VNA nurse sat beside her. After a few minutes she began taking her last breaths and we called the family back in the room and they were with her as she breathed her last.
The Story of Mary
There was a time I was asked to visit a home without a lot of prior information as to what was going on. When I entered the door, I went into a darkened room with people lining the walls in chairs, and a large double bed in the middle of the room with a woman in distress laying on the bed with two of her children laying beside her and she was moaning very loudly with each exhalation. Her husband was at her head as I opened my stool and sat at the end of her bed and went into my Meditation and offered her Reiki. After a half hour her husband needed to go into the other room and he offered me his space closer to her. I continued to offer her this energy. Forty five minutes later she went into a more peaceful state and her moaning subsided. She passed a couple of hours after I had left and her husband told the social worker she had been struggling so much during the past three weeks and he had not seen her in such peace as she was after the Reiki session.
The Story of David
Another time the social worker asked me to come to the home of a man dying of cancer and who was in great pain despite the pain medications he had been receiving. He was open to give Reiki a try. For the next six weeks whenever I called, he was always open to my coming. He told the social worker that from the very first treatment he had never again had the pain that he was experiencing when we first met.
The Story of Margaret
Last month I was called to a home of a 63 year old woman who was close to the end of life and in discomfort and had asked for Reiki. When I got there she was surrounded by her large family of syblings and children. They stayed while I played some soft music and opened my stool beside the bed. After the session her daughter asked me if I would say a prayer. Not knowing her faith denomination I shared a generic prayer and then invited the family to share anything they wanted to say to Margaret. Each of them told her how much they loved her and how much she meant to them.
The next day I came they told me how much she had rebounded after the session. And I continued to come for six more weeks. She was in various stages of discomfort when I would arrive but always went into a deep Reiki slumber during the session. I began to give sessions to her daughter and son who were keeping long vigils and were near a point of total exhaustion.
One day I got a call from her daughter who asked me if I could come over that day as she had taken a turn. She no longer was conscious or communicative. The end was near. It was at that visit that they told with me that she had frequently shared with them all the things that were happening to her during the Reiki sessions – seeing her deceased loved ones, wonderful landscapes, and different spirits. All quite beautiful to her. I gave her what was to be her last session. The family kept vigil all night and then her son told them she was not going to let go unless they left the room. Her son told her they were going to bed and they all left. Fifteen minutes later her daughter went back into the room and found that she had passed. They did not call the VNA immediately but surrounded the bed once again and each family member was able to say whatever they needed to say. They called the VNA at 7 am and were so grateful that she had died at home where they were able to do this.
I am at a loss for words as to what these experiences are doing for me. Again it is just pure gift. One of my teachers once said, how great it is that we get paid to go into a person’s home and meditate for 45 minutes. How true that is.
Bill Stevens is a Christian Brother who taught in their schools for 25 years before working for 10 years in three different hospitals as a Chaplain. This led him to work with the HIV/AIDS community for the next 12 years during which time he created a non-profit organization called Chrysalis Ministry to reach out to those affected by this epidemic. He learned Reiki at this time which started him on his 20 year journey with Reiki. He presently is a Reiki Master and has taught Reiki for the past ten years and studied with seven Reiki Masters. He presently works with the VNA Hospice in Central Jersey as a Reiki practitioner and was recognized by the NJHPCO in 2010 as Hospice Reiki Practitioner of the Year.
Bill is a Shinpiden Reiki III graduate of the International House of Reiki and is a Reiki teacher and practitioner for the Shelter Animal Reiki Association which was founded to bring Reiki to animal shelters across the country.