Hospice Training: A Change in Perspective

Yesterday, in a training for upcoming hospice volunteering, I was asked the following:

  1. Who are the 4 most important people in your life?
  2. What are your 4 most important possessions?
  3. What are your 4 top beliefs and/or aspirations in life?
  4. What are your favorite 4 activities to do?
  5. What are your 4 greatest comforts?

I had to really stop to think, to feel. Honestly, some of these questions were easier than others. Who exactly IS most important to me? What possessions DO I actually care about? How DO I live and lead in this life time? I wrote the answers all individually on notecards.

Then — here is the kicker of this exercise — my trainee walked me through a scene-by-scene storyline where I slowly became more and more sick. Where the doctors didn’t have answers. Until they did — and it was leukemia. And for every new turn, new feeling, new challenge in this story — I had to give up one of the notecards with a precious thing or person on it. I had to experience what it felt like to have smaller deaths on my way to the ultimate passing on.

We hear it all the time: we have just one life to live. But if I am being honest, I don’t think I ever quite feel that in my body as a truth. It seems like a fantastic quote to share with others as we link arms and carpe a new diem, as I toe another starting line of a race, as I sip a great cup of coffee in a new city — before tumbling back into the day-to-day worries and anxieties we all have.

Yet. This exercise helped me to feel it as a deeper reality. To feel intimately that yes, we only have this one life. So- Who is it spent with? What is it spent doing? What ideas and beliefs and aspirations are being shared — and what is being held back, silent, perhaps because we worry about judgment or criticism from others?

I don’t know how hospice volunteering will change me, but I know for sure that it will.

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? —Mary Oliver

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