The Healing Power of Conversation

From my very first visit with Sally and Mark in the hospice facility last October, the married couple has never not made me smile. Sally was a stay-at-home mom, who raised not only her children with Mark, but also her nieces and nephews whose parents passed away when they were young. Despite her dementia, her … Continue reading “The Healing Power of Conversation”

What Death Has Taught Me About Life

My hospice journey began with a patient in the late stages of neurodegenerative disease. Even though she was awake, she could not speak or show conscious awareness of her surroundings. It was frustrating at first because I did not know how to interact with her. I tried asking questions, showing her pictures, and reading to … Continue reading “What Death Has Taught Me About Life”

Storytelling with Donna and Joey

Donna and Joey met in high school at the diner where Donna worked. Joey often recounts the delicious milkshakes and burgers they shared. They have been together since they met and never left their hometown, except for when Joey served in the navy during World War II. Their small hospice room is filled with medals … Continue reading “Storytelling with Donna and Joey”

Becoming Comfortable with Death

When I first began as a hospice volunteer, I was largely unaware what hospice entailed. My own experience with death was limited; my grandfather passed away when I was young, but no one close to me since then had passed. I only thought about death in an abstract way, but mostly ignored the topic as … Continue reading “Becoming Comfortable with Death”

Coming to Terms with Myself

When I first applied and began my volunteer experience with the volunteer hospice program through Swarthmore, I admit that I thought of it as a resume booster. It was just something that I had to do if I wanted to get into medical school eventually. I never thought that it would be something I genuinely … Continue reading “Coming to Terms with Myself”

Patients: Not Just Ill Ones

When I visited Mr. A for the first time, we found out that we were born on the same day. We both agreed that people who share a birthday should become best friends, and twenty minutes into the conversation, we did. I am awful at starting conversations but Mr. A always has something to say. … Continue reading “Patients: Not Just Ill Ones”

Accepting Death While Remaining Human

The experience that Ascend Hospice has offered me is irreplaceable. Throughout my year here, I have been formally assigned to three different patients but have seen a lot more. Every single one got me thinking about life in one way, shape or form. The experience has forced me to be vulnerable, to dig deep within … Continue reading “Accepting Death While Remaining Human”

On compassion in the face of death

“Medical professionals concentrate on repair of health, not sustenance of the soul.” Upon encountering this line in Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, I became filled with regret. My grandmother had succumbed to leukemia only months prior, and her battle was harrowing. She, a healthy, able-bodied, gardening enthusiast with no signs of aging other than mild … Continue reading “On compassion in the face of death”

You’re not alone

This year, I heard death’s knock on my door more than I ever had before. I experienced the fragility of life both personally and professionally. It became real to me in a way it wasn’t in the past. My first patient through Ascend was sad in a way I was not used to. I have … Continue reading “You’re not alone”

Understanding Death and Dying

As Janet and Carl were in the back of the car on their way to meet a patient, Kate, that we had been told could be quite hostile and angry when visitors arrived, there was certainly an air of uneasiness. I do not think either Janet or Carl were necessarily scared, just anxious about the … Continue reading “Understanding Death and Dying”