The other day a friend asked me if I was still volunteering at the hospice. I told her I was.
That must be so hard, she said. Actually, I get that comment a lot. It must be so hard.
I didn’t quite know what to say. My immediate reaction was to say that it wasn’t hard. But I couldn’t explain why.
I think people assume it’s hard to spend time in a hospice because— well, because it’s full of dying people. And if there’s one thing our culture of perpetual youth and beauty shuns, it’s death and dying. We’re terrified it might happen to us one day. (News Flash…!)
Is it hard to see people riddled with cancer, wracked with pain, struggling to breathe? Is it hard to come in one day and discover that a person you’ve spent time getting to know is gone? Is it hard to see family members struggling with grief? Hard for who? For me?
I would say this: that on the contrary, spending time in the hospice inspires me. Every time I’m there, I see people who have the courage to smile in the face of their pain. I see how the smallest thing—a touch, a smile, a cup of tea—can lift a soul up. I see how fleeting our lives are. I am witness to how precious—and how sustaining—the bonds of family, friendship and love can be, if we let them.
So no, it’s not hard for me to be in the presence of death. It’s beautiful and sad and joyful and tragic and painful and sometimes even hilarious. It reminds me that later is meaningless. If I love someone, I need to tell them now. If there’s something I must do, now’s the time.
And when a body goes, I send some butterflies of love up in its wake, grateful that I had a chance to touch and smile and share a few precious moments with that unique manifestation of being. I feel blessed.