Eight rice and bean dinners, with dried kale, red peppers, onion and cheese powder from a box of Annie’s mac & cheese. Eight scrambled egg dinners, with dried green chile and salsa bark and more cheese powder. Three dehydrated green chile stew dinners. Twenty-eight one-cup bags of quick-cook steel-cut oatmeal, with milk powder, cinnamon and dried fruit. Four bags each of dried banana circles, apple slices, and sweet potato leather.
No, I’m not being prudent and stocking up in advance of the Big One that experts predict has a 33% chance of obliterating Vancouver in the next 50 years.
After these first few months volunteering in the hospital, and now in the hospice, I am starting to come away with impressions. Things that stay with me, things I find myself thinking about offsite, things I am trying to learn how to digest.
The most important one is connection.
When you’re vulnerable like this, in the hospital or dying, things get pared down to the absolute essentials. Bodily functions, simple things. I got a good night’s sleep. A dish of ice cream.
The people whose suffering haunts me the most are those who don’t have anyone there for them. They are alone, navigating a system full of strangers, at a time in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. Their suffering is amplified because of this. Continue reading →
Have you ever been talking to someone and had the feeling that they were just waiting for a pause in your narrative so they could jump in and start talking about themselves? Have you ever been interrupted in mid-sentence ? Have you ever had the feeling that the person you are talking with is completely bored by what you’re saying? Have you ever revealed something personal and important to you, and then told that you were completely wrong about it or that your listener had had that exact same experience and this is what you should do?
I’m sure you have. We all have. It’s called relationships.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, other than the fact that we will all die someday, it’s that everyone wants to talk about themselves. If you can really listen — listen so people feel heard — your relationships will be much deeper, stronger and healthier. Continue reading →
Remember when I first got my hearing aids? I had such a hard time with the harsh, brittle, crashing sounds they made. I was so disappointed – I had been expecting things to sound more beautiful and instead they just crashed and bashed.
One of the things I have wanted to do since coming back to the land of English is volunteer with a hospice organization. Hospice, in case you don’t know, is caregiving for people who have a terminal illness. When there is nothing that can be medically done to turn a disease around, when there are no more treatments left, then patients and their families are eligible for hospice care. A hospice team – in a facility or in your home – makes sure that you are comfortable, as free from pain as possible, and supports your family as you make the transition out of this world.
Volunteers are a part of this team, doing nonmedical stuff like listening, bringing water or coffee or tea or warm blankets, wheeling patients outside for fresh air, and generally trying to be helpful while at the same time not making things worse than they already are. I just completed a 26-hour training program for hospice volunteers. My first shift at the hospice on the UBC campus is tomorrow afternoon.