"No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another."
WHY I VOLUNTEER WITH HOSPICE
I've had the opportunity, my entire adult life, of working in the long-term care (nursing home) industry. Usually, when I would tell people what I did for a living, they would say, "Isn't that depressing? All those people dying all the time." Though there are lots of things depressing about any aspect of healthcare, working with the dying never was depressing for me.
I consider it a tremendous privilege to be invited to someone's death. Just like most people would consider it an honor to be invited to witness the birth of a child, I consider it an honor to witness the passing of a soul. It's no less an historical event for that individual but, I think, carries much more meaning because that individual has lived an entire life of accomplishments.
Having witnessed the passing of many individuals - family, friends, patients - there are certain patterns that develop. You begin to be able to recognize when the transition starts to take place. Yet, each individual processes their own dying in a unique way. This is a never-ending source of wonder for me. To be able to watch and participate in this allows me an opportunity to look at my own life and what I would want to have happen when I begin my own transition.
There is no more intimate time in the interaction with another human being than during the dying process. All pretense is gone and the true light of the individual shines through. And though, not every passing is peaceful and calm, there is an honesty that you won't find in any other aspect of healthcare or communication with another human being. When an individual has no more to lose, nothing left to bargain with, their personality can come through and the depth of that emotional interchange always amazes me.
Families will do the hardest work of their lives during this time. It's usually a waiting game charged with fear and anxiety. It's exhausting, both physically and emotionally. As a volunteer, I can be a support to the family by "keeping vigil" at the bedside when they no longer have the strength to do it. Because I'm not caught up in the emotional turmoil and family dynamics, I can provide some calm and stability to the family as well as the patient. That's huge. That's when you REALLY know that you have made a difference. It doesn't get any better than that.
That's why I volunteer with Hospice.