Inspiring Hospice True Story
I have been a hospice volunteer, working with dying patients, for several years. I know – the thought of spending time with people who are dying sounds very depressing, and it may be for many. For me the desire to share time with those who are transitioning from the physical reality to the spiritual reality has burned deep within for many years. It is both a privilege and an honor for me to be with those who need companionship during this crucial time in the journey of their souls. I do not find it depressing at all – I find it highly inspiring and enriching.
Most of the patients I routinely visit with are elderly. While I have deep compassion for them and what they are going through, dying is a more natural progression in the lives of the elderly and somehow easier for me to accept. Still, the wisdom and positive attitudes exuded by these people is remarkable. Each one has left an indelible mark on me in some way.
Yesterday I lost a patient – a very dear, inspiring young woman I had grown to love who had just celebrated her twenty-eighth birthday in January. This young woman’s world had crashed in around her. Not only had she undergone surgeries and chemotherapy that were ineffective in eradicating the cancer she’d been diagnosed with, not only had she been rendered deaf and unable to walk due to a stroke she’d had after brain surgery, and not only had she been given no hope for recovery, her personal life was devastating.
She had been married for close to ten years to a man whom, because he couldn’t deal with her hopeless cancer prognosis, shut off emotionally and told her he no longer loved her. She had two little boys, ages 4 and 6, who were the lights of her life. They remained in Virginia with their father, a place she and her husband both resided before she got sick and had to be transferred to her mother’s house in Florida. In the four months she laid incapacitated in bed at her mother’s house, she never got to touch or hold those boys again. No amount of pleading or reasoning from her family, his family, or the hospice social worker could convince him to bring the boys to her. She Skyped with them, but never got to touch or hold them again. I’ll never understand how that could have happened. Her situation was beyond tragic.
You would think this young woman would be despondent and hopeless, yet she was anything but. She was loving, hopeful, and gracious. She poured love onto every person that entered her room. If you’d ask her how she was feeling (she could no longer hear but she could read lips), she’d always say, “I’m okay” in a very positive way. She never complained. The only way anyone knew she was suffering was by the grimacing of her face. She would never say she was in pain, even when it was a level 9 or 10.
She continued to look hopefully forward up until the moment she took her last breath, never accepting that she would not see any of her plans or dreams come to fruition, even though it was obvious that her body was rapidly succumbing to her cancer.
Each Wednesday when it was time for me to end my visit, I would blow her a kiss and she would blow one back to me. When I said goodbye this week, I blew her the usual kiss and she blew one back to me. But this week was somehow different. I told her I loved her for the very first time and she said she loved me too. We must have both known intuitively that it would be the last time we would see each other in the physical world.
My volunteer coordinator called me yesterday morning to tell me that she had passed that morning. I thought I would take it harder than I did, but it was easy for me to accept because I know she is no longer prisoner to her diseased, cancerous body and in a much better place – a place of love, a place of peace, and a place where she can always watch her sons. And while the cancer destroyed her body, it could never destroy the strength of her spirit and the eternal beauty of her soul. She is not dead – she remains very much alive.
I know I have been especially blessed with the opportunity to have known this beautiful, deeply inspiring woman. For that I am immensely grateful.
So, in case you are still wondering, that is why I do what I do. That is why I am a hospice volunteer.
Photo by All Great Quotes
First published at Love Your Life