The Revd Dr Michael Wright

New Direction

 

Biography: New Direction

 

I’ll never forget the highs and lows of that summer’s day in 1994. The day started well, with the legal process that would mark the adoption of our son who’d been fostered by us for the previous two years. He was 14 years old and the judge was wonderful. He took off his wig, called our lad to his chair and, in a private conversation, asked if this is what he wanted.  It was a profound moment: a time when we all affirmed our commitment to each other.

 

Then, running back to the car for the camera I’d forgotten, I realised the pain in my chest wasn’t going to go away. It was getting worse. That night, instead of the family celebrations that were planned to precede a holiday the next day, I was admitted to York coronary care unit. The diagnosis of heart disease was discomforting for a person with no previous experience of illness but in view of the heart attacks that had occurred within the family, some of them early and fatal, it wasn’t a complete surprise.

 

What was surprising was the new world I inhabited. As the symptoms became more pronounced, my familiar landscape disappeared. Trying harder didn’t help. Unlike my sporting days, it was impossible to drive through the pain and trying to do so, which was frequent at first, simply re-stated my brokenness. In this increasingly weakened state, old certainties slipped away. My children became protective which, though well meant, only heightened my sense of loss. The future looked bleak.

 

Yet as time passed and I took time to read and reflect, things changed. William Vanstone’s book on The Stature of Waiting (much loved by Cicely Saunders towards the end of her life), was particularly helpful as an entré into a spirituality of passivity. Interest in the experience of illness and the concept of woundedness grew. Importantly, I think I began—slowly— to learn how to receive with good grace. It was a steep, sometimes painful, learning curve but one that enhanced my quality of life.

 

A year later and symptom free with the help of modern interventions, I made the decision to leave my head teacher post. I was a changed person and, believing that I knew something about living with uncertainty, felt drawn towards hospital chaplaincy. It was a transformational moment that heralded a new experience and the opportunity to explore more fully the nature of spiritual health care.

 

During the next five years I learned much from the patients and staff, became a member of the hospital’s critical incident de-briefing team, was associated with the pain management clinic and engaged more widely in issues around healing and renewal. As the practical experience blended with an increasing desire to understand the bigger picture, I presented the hospital with a position paper on chaplaincy and the nature of spiritual care. It was warmly received and, unexpectedly, elicited support for a PhD under the inspirational supervision of Professor David Clark and the Revd Dr Martyn Percy. Life has never been the same since.

 

 

 

 

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