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A warm retirement celebration was held Wednesday for the chaplain at Bethesda Regional Health Centre and Bethesda Place in Steinbach. 

Larry Hirst is retiring after 17 years at Bethesda preceded by 22 years as a church minister. All of the speakers at the celebration spoke warmly of Hirst's compassion and caring in helping people cope with difficult situations.

In reflecting on his career, Hirst says one of the main questions he has dealt with as a chaplain, in speaking with people facing their mortality, is 'why'; Why did this happen?.

"The 'why' question is the big, unanswerable question. And so I receive the question, I acknowledge that it's one that can't be answered and I sit with people in the 'why'. A lot of times people just want a companion in their struggle, they are not really looking for an answer. They know I can't answer it, but they ask anyway."

Hirst adds he also spent a lot of time reassuring people, particularly older people, about the grace of God.

"Older people, even if they grew up in Gospel churches, still had a lot of 'works' preached at them. I grew up in a very conservative Baptist group where the do's and don'ts were pushed a little stronger than the Gospel was, too often. I've experienced my own struggles with grace, so I'm comfortable affirming grace and minimizing the works part."

Hirst says he has found chaplaincy work to be very fulfilling.

"God just cut me out for that because I enjoy the work and I don't take it home with me. I feel fulfilled at the end of the day."

And, how he will spend his retirement?

"I don't have a clue. I'm not going to come to work on June 30th and I'm not going to come to work anymore. I don't have any plans at all. I've always believed that the Lord would tell me when it was time to do something else. So, I'll be listening and when the Lord speaks, I'll say, 'Here I am'."

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