Jeffrey C. Tucker, The End of the Island: Finding Life in the Movement of Human Suffering, Pain, and Loss. 2016, Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR
By Julianne Dickelman
An oft-quoted line from Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes,” came to my mind as I read chaplain Jeffrey Tucker’s book The End of the Island: Finding Life in the Movements of Human Suffering, Pain, and Loss.
Like all well-educated chaplains, Tucker knows that our graduate degrees have sometimes limited usefulness in our work. He has learned, from his own suffering and his ministry, that “human pain is not an academic or theological exercise,” and invites us to look at suffering with “a fresh set of eyes.”
Tucker weaves through his chapters a story of an old man deep in suffering looking for answers that he has been told are at “the end of the island.” Using this island-traversing metaphor and a series of “movements,” we are encouraged to be open and curious, to reflect on our notions and assumptions about pain and suffering. The author offers to walk with us in our suffering, encouraging the reader to stay on this often undesired path. We will learn as we continue moving. We are gently challenged to be in the movement of our pain and not run from it.
Tucker’s movements stretch across chapters that ask the profound human questions that chaplains listen to each day: Where is the Divine in my suffering? Where is my human support? Where are my hope and deliverance? How do I continue forward? He offers a rhythm of questions and short reflections that touch on honest emotions, including the very human despair, anger, and resentment that naturally accompany painful journeys. Each chapter begins with a pre-movement stretch to loosen us up for what lies ahead, and ends with a post-movement rest and prayer — a necessary pause to refresh before the next leg of the journey.
Chaplains will find this book a good companion both for a personal journey and for those we serve. The short statements and reflections may trigger new insight into our own pain, may normalize feelings, may offer new vocabulary to help a patient open up or go deeper into their own story. This book may offer new ways to live with what Tucker names “the randomness of life” as well as how to carry less, hold on less tightly to that which impedes our movement.
Road stories are many, whether we are heading to Emmaus or at the tomb being told to go back to Galilee where we will meet Him, or on a pilgrimage in northern Spain, and our ministries keep us on roads of self-discovery and walking alongside others. The End of the Island is some nourishment for the journey.
Julianne Dickelman, BCC, is a chaplain educator at Providence Healthcare in Spokane, WA.