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Virginia MacDonald

Virginia MacDonald

Spiritual Care Practitioner

When things are dark, light becomes even more significant. That’s when you really pay attention. So if a patient is able to articulate or at least hold on to their own internal sense of what brings them light? It goes a long way.

I find light in the ever-present knowledge that what I do matters. It’s the idea that how we live now impacts the generations to come. It makes my work, and my life, have a greater significance. It’s not just about me. 

It’s a very Indigenous perspective. I think motherhood helps to bring that on, and my age and looking at grandchildren. I’m more aware of my actions.

I’ve been reminded recently that there have been prophesies about a great disease. I can’t help but think, Wow, is this it? But there have been so many other devastating things that have happened to various First Nations. And yet, we’ve endured. It’s like well, it’s just one more thing.

It’s our job to go to the edge, to not leave a distressed patient looking into the dark and feeling alone.

What makes it hard, though, is the disparity of impact. This has opened up a vision that it’s the poor who suffer more than anybody else. I bring that to work. I see it. 

But I also carry the hopefulness and the grit from the people I know.

I also think about how spiritual care practitioners work so much on the edge of that light and dark metaphor. It’s our job to go to the edge, to not leave a distressed patient looking into the dark and feeling alone. There’s no greater kind of aloneness than that.

During this pandemic, I feel it’s even more important to be a presence of hope, because there are so many things right now that can’t just be fixed.

Each of us has to have our resources to turn to and take care of ourselves. I bike to and from work. I really need that rush of air to clean out any of the trauma, any of the extreme distress that I’ve heard throughout the day. To let it go. So by the time I get home I feel refreshed.

For me, what’s spiritual about that is relating it to the air. To the spirit, to the breath. They are all intertwined.

Virginia MacDonald is a Spiritual Care Practitioner at St. Michael’s Hospital.

As told to Hayley Mick. Photos by Yuri Markarov. This interview has been edited and condensed.