People always ask me how I can work with Hospice. I find it hard to explain, but I will attempt to explain why I do what I do. I read an article recently that talked about how people remember the moments in their lives. They don’t remember days, months, or years, they remember moments. Do you remember the feelings you had when you found out you were going to have a child, or the moment when that child was born? You never forget those precious moments. It is much like this with my hospice moments. I meet people in the moment. I might only know them for weeks or months, but those moments affect me in ways that I will keep for a lifetime. I am a stranger coming into the home for the first time and I leave with a treasure. Maybe the following stories will demonstrate what I mean.
I stopped by to visit a new patient I had met only once before. It was late and I was on my way home but something told me to stop that night. I wanted to go on home, but I stopped. It only took one look to know that the patient was dying. I called the nurse and asked him if there was family he needed to call. Then, the husband and I sat by the bedside, and I asked him to tell me how they met and to share some of their story. His wife drew her last breath as he was holding her hand and he told of their first days. It was literally like a ship passing in the night but for a brief moment in time, a connection was made.
Jim was another patient I was privileged to meet. He was a lot like my father, not so much now, but as I remember him as a child. They were both military. He was crusty and gruff. He spoke his mind. The first time I called he said, “What do I need a social worker for?” I explained my role and he said, “All right, if you have to come, come. But you can’t come until noon and you have to call every time you come.” So I went. As the months passed, he’d ask the same question, but it became a joke between us. He said later that he enjoyed my visits and actually looked forward to them. The times I could visit kept getting later and later as it took him longer to get up and get dressed. Jim lived alone and could hardly move about his home without giving out. He had peripheral family that helped. He refused to think about a nursing home. He said he would just not wake up one day and that is just what he did.
I am in the helping role as a hospice professional but the truth is I am abundantly richer as I meet people who struggle and somehow persevere with the most difficult thing they will ever have to do. These precious moments are now interwoven into the fabric of my life. The answer to the question, “How can you work in hospice?” is, for me “How can one not?”