Saturday, September 20, 2008
About one year ago I decided to volunteer a little of my free time to the local hospital. The area I was interested in was Palliative Care. First, I was interviewed and asked "why". I didn't have to think hard about my reason but I was a bit embarrassed to reveal it: I was curious about dying, the dying and death. I wanted to have first hand experience, get my own impressions and learn about the subject. Another reason was that I was not able to accompany either of my parents, or any one else I was close to, at the end of their life. I wanted to become able.
The hospital had some volunteers who had collected experience for many years and taken courses. I was sent along with one of the most seasoned ones and after a few rounds, left to go on my own. My instructions were to introduce myself and ask if anything was needed (fresh water, move a pillow, get an extra blanket) or, if there were visitors, to offer them a coffee or tea. Pretty easy, right? After that initial step, the adventure begins. I would like to write a book about the individuals I met, their journey, what I saw and heard, felt and thought. I have been deeply touched by the way a person may cling to life, no matter how dismal it may seem from the outside. I don't know if I have become "able"; I have never been present at anyone's passing, but I have approached the mystery. In the meantime, I have opted to volunteer in a senior's residence, meeting those making the transition from their own home into this new one and visiting those who are otherwise left alone in their last days.
The photograph I added shows my shadow at the beach in Cape Cod. The image seems appropriate to this blog because I see the different levels of reality that are sometimes taken for granted out of habit: the surface, what is below and above it and how a shadow is woven through it all. It inspires me to take nothing for granted.