When I first began my hospice volunteering experience I did not expect myself to be vulnerable and learn how death is also part of the light in our lives. My whole life death to me seemed like something horrible and painful. Yet, through my volunteering with my patient and the constant discussions with Reverend R. I started looking at death differently. I understood that every individual copes with death differently, yet Rev. pushed me to understand death as part of life’s passage. I remember that during one of our discussions we started talking about how we celebrate birthdays and baby showers, but we never celebrate death even though we should celebrate how that person’s life touched so many. I felt that my view of death completely changed because while mourning is part of death, so is celebrating how that person’s life was so meaningful.
Another experience that shaped my view on death and dying was realizing how full of love and life my patient was every time I visited her. My patient would laugh and tell me stories, but what was most inspiring was how she would hold my hand and tell me that she was always there for me. This experience taught me about compassion because she did not know me, yet she would look into my eyes and always embrace me in a hug. My patient taught me about the importance to be present and see the light in every life that we come into contact with. I realized that nothing is more important than loving one another because despite her missing her husband, and at times her loneliness, she always opened her arms to embrace me. One day we sat in total silence outside just watching the sky and she told me how wonderful the sun felt. In that moment, I realized how the small, little things to me meant so much to her. My interactions with my patient have made me reflect on my life more and create my own vision of doctoring. Prior to this experience I knew I wanted to become a doctor because helping to save lives and being able to provide comfort were my main reasons.
After my experience with hospice, I want to be the kind of doctor that connects with patients and takes the time to understand them on a level deeper than what they need or their diagnosis. Hospice has taught me about listening and appreciating the silences because to me that’s the kind of doctor I want to become; one that listens to their patients and is there for them. My patient told me stories and I would sit just listening the whole time, those moments taught me more about what kind of doctor I wanted to be than all my pre-med courses. As a pre-med student, I’m constantly stressed and consumed in making sure that I’m the best applicant for medical school. Yet, my hospice volunteering taught me about a patient full of life who is coming close to death. This taught me more about empathy and compassion than any book or class could. When you come close to seeing how an individual talks about their life, yet aware of them getting older, it taught me about love and joy. This is what I learned from my volunteering experience: that a patient is more than just a person, they are life, love, joy, pain, and full of experiences. The most astonishing aspect was how my own patient’s faith transcended into my own. Before this program, I did not believe much in religion nor what my faith really was. Yet, I felt that part of me was missing and my patient and Rev. helped me understand my faith and spirituality. I understand now that my faith and passion for medicine will always be intertwined because my faith drives my vocation and pushes me to reflect and understand others through an empathetic approach.