Dear hospice volunteer:

{ Monday, May 12, 2008 }

Though I cannot name you, I am thinking of a specific "you." You have been a volunteer for many years.

I have said a volunteer's goodbye only twice now. I did not understand before I started this work what that goodbye might cost.

I've said two painful goodbyes in my own life, to people too young to have imagined their deaths and too close to me not to be completely changed by their absence. Loss is no stranger.

But it's a different thing to stand nearby without that personal connection and watch a life pass, be witness to a loss, to bring comfort, to help shoulder the weight of care. In hospice we use words like "honored" and "humbled" to describe the feeling of being allowed -- welcomed, even -- into that most intimate space.

I don't think there is a word for it. I don't think there is a word for being invited into the intensity and overwhelming space of a family's love for their dying one -- to watch them pour out love and nothing but love although with every gesture they carve a deeper space for their own pain. I watched them make sure nothing but love touched this person, and that it was no less than an immersion of love.

I wasn't ready for that. I was ready to aid the dying with comfort and to give respite to their caregivers. But I wasn't ready to witness that much love. I didn't know.

Whatever the word is for that experience was too heavy and great a word for me to carry. I came home and slept 12 hours. Not to escape the experience, but to be rested enough for it.

And now I want to thank you, because you have been doing this for years, and what you must know about love and pain by now is greater and stranger than you could ever explain to me. Thank you for helping me see that a person can keep this service in her heart for years, and that it need not overwhelm, but can make her more -- well, more like you. Less somber, less worried by life; more free, more unconsciously giving.

I wish for you -- and for all of us -- the kind of love I saw in that house, surrounding us and touching us constantly, not only in our dying but every day. I wish for you to wake up every morning knowing that love.

With all my heart,
Ann Elizabeth

1 comment:

Foodie said...

Love. Honor. Thank you for this post.

Post a Comment

Playground rules: We don't post name-calling, unconstructive meanness, or spam, and we ignore those who do, or our posts will be deleted as well.