A walk to faith
Dealing with the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult events for anyone to go though. Dealing with grieving families on a day-to-day basis would seem an almost impossible task. But that is exactly what Deaconess Diane Montgomery does in her job as a family care coordinator at the Ohio State Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Sister Diane uses her caring, compassion and training as a Deaconess to counsel families who have lost loved ones.
A nurse through and through
Diane Montgomery began working in the field of nursing long before her current position at Ohio State Medical Center. After graduating from the University of Delaware with a B.S. in Nursing, she took a position working in the surgical unit at a hospital in Miami Beach, Florida.
After some time in Miami Beach, she moved to Philadelphia and eventually to Columbus, Ohio where she enroll in the Ohio State University Masters program for nursing. She received her Masters degree while still working at the Ohio State Medical Center.
Somewhere to belong
In her mid-30s, Diane began to sense something was missing from her life. “I remember this urge to belong to something,” she reflects. “I passed St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on my walk to work each day, but never paid it much attention. Then, one day, I gave it some thought and decided to join.”
The church’s pastor, the Reverend Mark Price, was the first to give Diane two ideas that were to become very important in her life: the Deaconess Community of the ELCA and grief counseling. “Pastor Price told me that I could learn about grief counseling in the seminary,” Sister Diane says. “I felt the Deaconess Community would give me a place to belong.”
To learn about the Community, Diane attended a Deaconess discernment weekend, a gathering to help prospective candidates decide whether they want to join the Deaconess Community. “What I remember most about that weekend is how much we laughed,” say Sister Diane. “That surprised me, just how much fun it was.”
With discernment weekend reinforcing her desire to be a Deaconess, Diane set off for the seminary.
Back to school
Diane began her studies at Trinity Lutheran in Columbus, Ohio. “Being in seminary, surrounded by so many other inquisitive minds, nurtured my faith,” says Diane. She graduated with a Masters of Theology in Clinical and Pastoral Education, and continued her plan to become a Deaconess by going through the investiture and consecration process. In 2001, she was consecrated as Sister Diane.
Sister Diane was able to combine her experience as a nurse with her new Deaconess training by taking an internship managing the free-care clinic at the Faith Mission Homeless Shelter. “My new name, ‘Sister Diane,’ was good for opening doors,” she confesses. “I loved working at the shelter because it provided me the opportunity to work publicly, but also to work as a Christian
Working through the grief
I remember this urge to belong to something...
After completing her internship at Faith Mission, Sister Diane found herself back at a familiar place, the Ohio State Medical Center. But her new job was very different from her previous posts. As a family care coordinator, Sister Diane works with families who have recently suffered the death of a family member or close friend.
“My job is to counsel the families, to be there for them,” she says. “Each family is different. It is all about listening to what they need.”
For some families that means talking about the death in a religious light; for others it doesn’t. “I am comfortable with any spiritual aspects the family might want to discuss. I feel my spiritual training conveys a calming sense.”
Sister Diane recalls one instance when she needed to counsel 30-40 adults and their 20 children about a family member’s unexpected death. “The woman’s death was very sudden and no one was expecting it,” she remembers. “I can remember being there with all of them in the lobby. I had to handle each individual differently. No one grieves the same.”
It’s not only Christians who Sister Diane counsels. “The area we are in has a large Muslim population. Many of the other nurses were unfamiliar with the Muslim faith, so I started an in-service program to help better educate our staff on Muslim beliefs and traditions.”
One other role Sister Diane has as a family care coordinator is to tell the family the benefits of organ donation. “Many families have never considered organ donation. But I tell them it is a way for their loved one’s death to have meaning.”
“Once, I was talking to a mother who just lost her 17-year old son.” Naturally, very upset over losing her son, the mother listened to Sister Diane explain how organ donation would help the mother’s son live on. “She donated his eyes to a blind man. Her son’s eyes enabled that man to see. Not bad for a 17-year old.”
Working with grieving families is not an easy vocation. Sister Diane uses both her medical background and her spiritual training as a Deaconess to help counsel families and make it through the trauma of grieving. “My goal is to help them survive a tough time. Show them that, even when they least see it, God is in their lives moment by moment.”