For three years I was the Director of Community Relations for a Hospice program that served patients and their families in their homes throughout the five boroughs of New York City.
I often spoke to the public about End-of-Life care…“How can you do hospice work, it must be so sad and depressing?” All of us involved in hospice care have our own version of a response to this frequently asked question. In whatever way we choose to say it, the theme of the answer is always about generosity-how much we get back from those for whom we provide care.
This generosity comes in many forms; an intimate connection with a patient who communicates insight about what gave their life meaning and how happy they are to have lived it. A cup of hot coffee prepared by a patient’s spouse during a home visit on a chilly morning is a gift. Sharing a good laugh with a witty family member during a difficult time, witnessing the tears of joy as families come together to express their affection for a loved one who is dying, being present during family reconciliations, are blessings we all receive.
Additionally as a staff, we extended generosity to each other through support, connection and humor. We listen to each others’ concerns about patients and families or chat about our kids and partners. We also experience the fullness of generosity in the donations of time, money and art from the community and reading the letters of appreciation sent to us by folks grateful for the help hospice provided.
For all these inspiring gifts and the continuous generosity of paying it forward by many bereaved family members and members of the community, we are all are very grateful.