The summer before starting at HDS, Cody Hooks (he/him) undertook a pilgrimage through northern New Mexico to visit LGBTQIA+ elders and gather up fragments of their collective history. Many had lived through the peak of AIDS and forged ways of caring for one another in the midst of devastation, “making lives of soulful abundance out of a sometimes impossible world.”
While at HDS, Hooks has continued to marinate in this “plague wisdom,” drawing upon it in his work as a writer and as a caregiver. This past summer, he carried these lessons forward as he served as a chaplain intern at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for his HDS field education placement. This placement allowed Hooks to explore the darker sides of spirituality and end-of-life care, learning from the death doulas of the AIDS crisis and taking seriously practices of connecting with those who he calls his “queer ancestors.”
“I’m learning to follow my intuition into more liminal, creative spaces, letting go of self-imposed barriers. That’s where I find greatest healing—and that’s how I can show up for others as a human and as a caregiver.” Cody Hooks
Accompanying patients at the bedside and guiding family members through grief, he continued to call upon the legacies of his queer ancestors—how we can make sense of collective grief, honor the dead, and come together in true intergenerational intimacy, learning to let ourselves belong to one another.
“HDS has been the place where I can ask myself essential questions that are welling up inside of me,” Hooks says. A writer, astrologer, and gardener with roots in the American South and Southwest, Hooks gravitates toward spaces of unknowing. Being at Harvard Divinity has allowed him to lean into these liminal, in-between places of creativity and self-discovery.
These explorations have led Hooks to new spaces of discovery, sometimes by surprise. During his first semester, Hooks created a handful of oracle cards for his Introduction to Ministry Studies course. Now, the cards have turned into his master’s thesis, as he allows himself to explore what it means to create “necessary art,” art that helps make sense of the loss and devastation of the world. Hooks reflects, “I’ve come to see that whatever happens in the moment is a worthy creation.”
Hooks’s artistic practice keeps him grounded as he takes on the often-difficult work of end-of-life care, and his art helps foster unique spaces of connection and intimacy in moments of grief. As he finishes up at HDS, he plans to continue exploring the convergences between healthcare chaplaincy and community-based modes of healing.
Read “Plague Wisdom” in Harvard Divinity Bulletin.
—by Sarah Fleming