Nothing Bad Between Us author Marlena Fiol has just uploaded a new blog post on her interview with Dr. LaVera Crawley, read the blog post here.
“Spiritual Companionship” – My Interview with Dr. LaVera Crawley
I feel honored to introduce today’s guest Dr. LaVera Crawley. In the field of medicine and ethics, LaVera is internationally known for her work on healthcare disparities in palliative and end-of-life care. After a 16+ year career at Stanford as an empirical bioethicist, LaVera Crawley began a new career in spiritual companionship, bringing together her work in medicine, ethics, social justice, teaching, research, and public health with her longstanding interest in spirituality. She is currently the Palliative Care Chaplain at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and a certified educator for hospital chaplains. She’s also Chair of the Board of Father Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation.
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The following is a taste of my conversation with LaVera:
Q: Dr. Ira Byock, another guest on this podcast, says that even as we die, we can grow well beyond how we’ve lived. Do you agree with that?
LaVera: Of course. I came to know that intimately when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening very serious immune disease called sarcoidosis. I can remember going for a series of scans, and in the dressing room, suddenly feeling like something was just pushing me against the wall and saying, “Pay attention. Wake up. This is what life is. Life is facing death.” And I mean, that moment changed everything. I saw everything differently.
Q: What can you share with us about denial at the end of life?
LaVera: Denial is actually a very important process that we have to go through. Because it’s saying, “It is the doorway into the liminal.” And it may say, “I’m not quite ready to go through that door, yet.” It may just be saying that. It’s not saying, “I don’t want to go there or this is not true.” It’s saying, “I’m not quite ready to go there.”
Q: How can we practice spiritual companionship for a loved one who is dying?
LaVera:What the dying person wants: Will you be with me and not push me further than I need to go or than I can go right now? And if I can trust that you’re just going to be with me exactly where I am right now, then maybe when I’m ready to take that next step where you want me to go, then you’ll still be there with me.
When asked if there’s one last thing she’d like our listeners to hear, LaVera says, “My invitation to listeners is to make sure that you understand your purpose of being alive, of being on this planet at this time, and know your guiding principles.”
LaVera Crawley, MD, MPH, describes her spiritual journey as a dedication to the path of “Radical Servanthood” first as a Board-Certified Family Physician on the Navajo Indian Reservation; as an at-home mom; then as an empirical bioethicist at Stanford focusing on health inequities; and currently as hospital chaplain practicing the art of spiritual companionship. Each step along the way she has heeded the call of that still, inner voice, which has led her to her calling as the Director of Spiritual Care and Clinical Pastoral Education at the California Pacific Medical Center. She is also Chair of the Board of Fr. Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation.
A Mennonite Missionary’s Daughter Finds Healing in Her Brokenness
This story differs from similar accounts of childhood domination or abuse because it tells the story of the author’s seemingly paradoxical responses to the powerful forces in my life, but doesn’t leave it at that. It sheds light on the social and religious dynamics underlying these responses, giving readers insights into and understanding of her otherwise incomprehensible choices, as she found my way back into loving relationships with her parents and the Mennonite community.