Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hospice? You want to do HOSPICE? Whoa!

Some people have asked me
"Really? Why hospice?"
others have simply said
"Wow. I could never do that."
I agree Hospice Nursing will be challenging, but I feel compelled from an inner place so deep it is hard for me to understand, let alone describe. Suffice to say I can't not do it, and feel as if it is what I have been wired for.

Before I was accepted into Nursing School, when I was still awaiting confirmation from God that nursing was a calling I should walk into, a bible verse that hit me was
To the Father, pure religion is this: that you care for
widows and orphans in their distress, and that you
keep yourself unstained by the world.
~ James 1:27
Then in the first few weeks of Nursing School, I saw a video, titled Dealing with Death and Dying by Thanatologist Joy Ufema, RN. As I watched the video and listened to her stories, I was struck how deeply this need is felt in America today and knew I wanted to care for the elderly and dying, someday -- here were the "widows" the verse in James mentioned*.

So here I am facing a new chapter in my career.I recently received an introduction / orientation packet from my new employer, Willamette Valley Hospice. Included were the standard forms to sign and the acknowledgement that I might have to pee in a bottle once in awhile. Also included were two books -- mandatory reading for all clinical staff. The two books are:
The True Work of Dying;
A Practical and Compassionate
Guide to Easing the Dying Process
By Jan Bernard, RN and Miriam Schneider, RN.


Final Gifts;
Understanding the Special Awareness,
Needs, and Communications of the Dying
By Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley

I'm only about 2/3 done with the first one and have already had a few experiences of trying to read through bleary eyes as the tears roll down my face.

As I move forward and share my journey here on my blog, I'll start with a few quotes from my reading thus far which may help you better understand why I would want to give myself away to help people live well as they die well:
In many ways, [death & dying have been] brought to the forefront of our public conscience. Finally, we are naming our fears and concerns about this life process. The stories [in this book] were written by people who chose a natural death. Their words tell of the difficulties of their choices. They also speak of the joy and healing that come as we sit in the darkness. They tell of their journey as they walk toward the light.
(p 169)
We have chosen to include stories that encompass the totality of what death is, both good and bad. We have found that when the story of death is told by someone who has walked the path, the effect is profound. These stories are more than the sum of their words. They took great courage to write and the very action of writing released and healed painful layers of grief. These stories are small pieces of peoples' souls.
(p 166)
It seems too often that many hospice patients' most profound questions come not as you [the hospice nurse] are sitting quietly with them, but rather as you are about to leave their room. It is usually at the time...when you feel as though you have the least amount of time. But in our hearts, these are the moments we have come to value the most in our contacts with patients. There is always time for them.

My patient Jim and I often would sit together...and talk about life and what this dying time meant to him. He softly asked me this question as I was about to leave his room: "Have you been witness to any healing of patients from cancer?"

I turned from the door and shared with Jim that in hospice work with patients in the natural process of dying I have frequently witnessed something even more powerful than the curing of disease. In the final weeks of a patient's life, I saw the healing of sadness, the healing of regrets from unmet dreams, the healing of families too long apart, the healing that comes from words that took a lifetime to say, and the healing that only letting go brings.
(p 8-9)
Death will eventually arrive for everyone, and when it does, there are no do-overs. That is why it is important not to run from your inner struggle.
(p 184)
Such beauty and grace abound in these stories.

I know as I work alongside people who are living their life to the fullest in the best way they can, I will also look deep inside and feel challenged to live my own life to the fullest as well.

I am humbled and in awe at such a loving God who would not just allow me to, but actually ask me to give my life away to His precious ones at such courageous, important, and tender moments of their lives. What an incredible honor and privilege -- and what an immense responsibility.

And I haven't even started the job yet -- I'm not even done with the required reading!

~ Keith

* (the orphans referred to, I believe, are kids with Downs Syndrome -- but that part of my calling has yet to be revealed, except in brief glimpses here and there. (back))

1 comment:

Jon Reid said...

If you have not already done so: Watch the movie Magnolia.