Upon my return to Virginia this spring I was able to devote my energies more fully to supporting those enrolled in one of our local hospices. I took the volunteer training last fall but then had to leave before working with my first patient. Since my return I have worked with several patients, some for a few days, some for a few weeks, and some for a few months. The end is in sight for all. That final journey that we must embark upon at some point in this human experience. Each of us will find our way there sooner or later.
Amid this timeframe, I was also able to assist a friend’s father with his final transition. He had been living with dementia for the last several years. The family had watched his decline and allowed him as much space and grace as possible in that kind of situation. At the same time that they determined that hospice should be brought in, the rest of the family came down with covid. Not being able to care for him during his last week was difficult for them to work around. Instead, they had to bring in others, paid caretakers who didn’t know this gentle of heart man. Who wouldn’t be able to tune into his words and needs as deeply as one who knew him and watched his decline. I was luckily able to step in and assist more from the family’s point of view. I had known him for a year. I had watched him become more and more childlike. I had seen how the family needed assistance that would support all the members and not just his physical needs.
I spent over 60 hours in his presence during those last six days. And even more time communicating with the family when I wasn’t there. Because of that, I was able to help determine when he was hitting the next stage of transition over and over again. I was able to engage hospice, with the family’s permission, to set him up with their special cocktail of relief and up it as needed over several days. He made his way-out last Friday. His son had tested negative for covid that morning and was able to be by his side for a few hours before that last breath.
Each experience with one who is passing reminds me of the fact that my time is not yet. It reminds me to find gratitude in each day. To find the magic in the little things. It also reminds me of each dear one that I have said goodbye to already. That cord that has been cut between the here and now and the world beyond. It makes me stop and pause for a moment of reflection. To see myself and my choices as I am making them and to embrace the outcome – whatever comes.
I am grateful for this part of my work in the world. I am grateful to see and be with those who may go unseen due to society not accepting or embracing death in our current world as part of everyday life. I wish that we find a way to make our peace with that transition of the soul beyond this earthly realm. To find ways to acknowledge the sacredness of passing out of the world, the same way we embrace the joy of a new child passing or being birthed into this world. To hold ceremonies other than the traditional funerals. So, to honor the sacredness of the times surrounding death. To not let souls, depart with no one to witness the special moment of passing. To not fear being the witness to these moments outside of time.
I will find more and more ways to create comfortable moments. To begin easy conversation around the subject of death. I will be present to those who are passing and to those who are being left until their time nears. I will rest in gratitude each day and night until I too am called forth. I hope to meet you here and there when the time comes.
Image from FreePik