Be here, while I am here

What is death? What does death mean? Those were both things that before Hospice I had never truly reflected on or wanted to reflect on. But this year when I saw the open volunteer position I decided it was something that I wanted to explore. I wanted to to explore this other aspect of life; death. When I was first applying for the volunteering position, I remember being extremely nervous about committing to something so far out of my comfort zone. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to handle it because I had never had that much exposure to death before. However, I still knew it was something I wanted to do due to the great experiences with hospice my family has had in the past.

One of the biggest ways hospice has helped me grow is actually coping with the stress and nervousness that I have. That is why the prompt given about self care was the most meaningful one to me. The prompt discussed how to utilize mantra repetition to refresh the spirit and relax in stressful situations. I was definitely someone who had a lot of stress about hospice. I would get nervous each time I went into the unit because of the uncertainty of when someone would pass away. I would get nervous that I wouldn’t be able to connect with a patient and their family. I would be worried that I overall wouldn’t be able to attend to the needs of the patients. But, mantra repetition helped me immensely with overcoming these anxieties of mine. I started utilizing phrases like, “It is okay, you are not alone,” to calm me down during these situations. Using mantra repetition allowed me to step away from the stressful situations and see more clearly that I was not alone and I had other people to go to help for. I realized that my biggest fear about being alone could also be the patients I was sitting with biggest fear also. That realization impacted my experience working with Hospice the most. It made me more aware of how important it is to be there for these people.

My first time on the unit I was welcomed with open arms by the nursing staff and was reassured everything would be fine. The first patient I sat with was an older women who had no close relatives. She could not really talk but she would smile at me now and then. Unfortunately, like this woman, all of the other patients I sat with were in similar condition and could not speak. However, my experience with this particular woman was the must meaningful I had because of the smiles every so often she would give me. I took those smiles as reassurance that I was supposed to be there and that I was doing okay.

I have grown as a person by working with Hospice. I have learned that death isn’t something to fear and we shouldn’t let it consume our emotions. It will never be easy to think about death, but I have seen that the best way to approach it is to reflect on what a great life the person had and how much they have impacted your life for the better. The end of a life will never be something to cheer about, but it is our chance to commemorate the life they had and why they were so important.