Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hospice embraces the good of dying ...

Today I went through day 2 of hospice training with Allina Home & Community Services. Our training began with a reflection - a moment of silence to reflect and to ground ourselves. Then Fr. Jim Cassidy spoke to us about spiritual care and its role in hospice .... "hospice is about living up to the time of death ... hospice embraces the good of dying." He shared a reading from Henri Nouwen:

"When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us we often find that it is those who instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares." 

Needless to say these past couple days of training have brought up a lot for me. I am glad I am doing this. Fr. Jim shared a story with us ...

there was a young single mother with a 4 year old daughter who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She would not be around to celebrate her daughter's 5th birthday. She was a type A personality, always on the go and needing everything to be organized. She worked out with her sister (who had 3 other kids) that her 4 year old daughter would join their family. They began the transition while she was in hospice. She wanted desperately to leave a legacy for her 4 year old. In conversation with Fr. Jim they came up with an idea of having a birthday present for her daughter  .. where both the present and gift wrap were age appropriate and where there was card for her that she wrote for her daughter ... for her 5th birthday, her 6th birthday, her 7th ... and all the way till her 21st birthday. Fr. Jim shared how it was a hospice volunteer who worked with the young woman to plan the birthday presents and went shopping for the cards and gift-wrapped the presents.

The young woman passed on before her daughter reached the age of 5. Every year till she becomes 21 she will continue now to receive gifts from her mother, and her mother will continue to live in her heart.

Like this little girl, I too lost a parent, my Papa, when I was 4 years old. What a gift it would've been for me to receive a present from my Papa every year. What a gift this hospice volunteer gave to this little girl and to this young woman.

If there is one thing I continue to learn and hear from the hospice training I am going through .... hospice is about living fully up until the time to transition. What a wonderful service Allina is offering to families who have loved ones in hospice.

Tomorrow is our final day of training and "graduation" ... tomorrow I also get to bring my therapy dog Ahnung so everyone can meet her and she can join in the final celebration and have her photo taken for her own Allina volunteer badge. As I left the training today those around me said they were really looking forward to meeting Ahnung. I think Ahnung is pretty excited too ... i'll make sure she gets her beauty sleep tonight :) We will be volunteering as a pet partner team as we get teamed up with a hospice patient. I have to go through 3 days of hospice training ... my pet partner and wise companion Ahnung simply knows instinctively how to simply be there for those in their final days. I know I have so much more to learn from this journey I am embarking on ... for the many years I have been volunteering in animal rescue here in Minnesota, I have come to learn and to believe, with all my heart what is a piece of the St. Francis of Assisi prayer ... "for it is in giving that we receive ..."

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