Hospice care may not readily come to mind as an intersection for science and spirituality, but for one patient and his chaplain, the connection they’ve forged was built from discussions about these very topics.
Dr. Watson, a retired internist and a current patient receiving care from Hospice of the Red River Valley, approaches the world from a clinical, scientific perspective.
During a hospital visit in 2013, Dr. Watson’s doctors took a chest x-ray and found a mass in his right lung. They encouraged him to look into hospice care. “I said, ‘I don’t really know what that is,’” Dr. Watson said, “so my doctor explained it to me, and that’s how I got started.”
Dr. Watson is acutely aware of how important face-to-face visits are for establishing rapport with patients, and he says the visits from Hospice staff have been very helpful. “I’m glad to see them,” he shared. “They answer my questions. They check my vitals, too. It’s interesting to talk to different people.”
According to Karin, Hospice of the Red River Valley chaplain, Dr. Watson has taken great care to interview the Hospice team members. “He learns something about each one and shows interest in us not only as skilled clinicians but as people with lives outside of our professions,” she said.
Dr. Watson has been married to his wife Delores for 65 years, and they have four children. He’s always been a social person and active in his community. He is a member of the American Legion, The United Methodist Church of Detroit Lakes and was a long-time volunteer with the local Boys and Girls Club. As a band leader and trumpet player, Dr. Watson started the big band group Doc and the Scrubs and established Tuesdays in the Park, a popular music series in Detroit Lakes that continues to this day.
Not only does Dr. Watson enjoy big band and classical music, he is also an avid reader. He reads material related to his medical profession and has an equal interest in theology, church history and biblical literature. Being a critical thinker and scientist led Dr. Watson to question some of the literal understandings of scripture and the God that he grew up with, and his spirit is energized by discussions around these topics.
His first question during each visit with the chaplain is, “What are you reading?” Karin was inspired to read several books that Dr. Watson suggested, which enhanced their visits and conversation. “He doesn’t need answers to all the big questions,” Karin shared, “but he loves the pursuit of knowledge and understanding in and of itself. In fact, when Dr. Watson is asked about what is to follow this life, he says with a twinkle in his eye, ‘I am excited to find out.’”
Every person who receives Hospice support utilizes the skilled staff in varied ways. Dr. Watson said his visits with the chaplain are what he’s appreciated the most about Hospice. And for Dr. Watson and Karin, the relationship they’ve built has been an education in friendship.