Prior to being a part of Hospice work, I did not know anything about the background of death and dying. It was a topic that simply came and went as quickly as life itself. After the very first time of meeting my patient, tears rolled down my face when I was in the comfort of my home. At first I felt embarrassed that I was so deeply affected by this experience. However, throughout the course of this year, I have learned that my reaction was natural and how many people feel about death.
My understanding of Hospice has grown in a way that has allowed me to look beyond the literalness of death. It has opened my eyes to accepting life the way it is and everything that comes along with it, even death. Hospice has shown me the difficulty physicians have with discussing the loss conversation as I also, at one point, could not see past the physical idea of one no longer existing in another’s life. Understanding how physicians have a hard time bridging the gap between sympathetically talking to a patient and being upfront is clearly apparent when doing Hospice work. For me, it was often difficult to even fathom having a conversation with someone who knew that the end was near. However, being a part of this program has enlightened me in numerous ways to the point where even I have become comfortable having this conversation with those closest to me.
The prompt “Keeping Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s Voice Alive,” influenced me greatly. To see someone write about their experience in a way which can be understood by everyone gives hope to those who are blind to difficult topics. For someone like me who usually doesn’t feel comfortable openly talking about such heartfelt topics, knowing that a person can write about dying while he is on his death bed is eye-opening in so many ways. It gives hope to a world in which we aren’t afraid of that which is supposed to scare us the most. Accepting death as a part of life’s ups and downs makes it easier for those we love the most and even ourselves. It is not that we must not be afraid; it’s more that we must accept our fate as we go through this journey.
Needless to say, my emotional response to death and hospice has changed in an unimaginable way. Becoming more open to even the idea that people do not infinitely exist on this Earth has been the most difficult part. However, to be human, for me, is defined through an understanding that our purpose on Earth is not limited to just that. We have a greater purpose which goes beyond just living. Therefore, I have learned not to be sad when someone passes on because they are living a life aimed for a greater purpose. Hospice itself has shown me the journey one has through the happiest moments of lives and how to cherish these memories even long after one’s passing.