Volunteering is a critical part of the hospice experience and helping families and patients in the dying process. Here is a message from our volunteer director Kim Perez to the Our Lady of Peace volunteers that help patients in hospice.
Ego is the obstacle, which can become baggage and a burden and set unrealistic expectations. It is not about me, “I don’t know what to do.” “I wish I could help, change, make more pleasant, comfortable, create a better experience, say something helpful, inspirational, etc.”
As we put aside our ego we can wake up to wherever the dying person is at. This allows us to be present in the moment, letting go of expectations and the dying experience that we would like for that individual. We must be okay to be present without speech and normal interaction, and focus and flow with the dying person. It is okay to be uncomfortable when there is nothing to say and nothing to do. Simply be present, let go of the worries of the day and be in that moment.
You may need to let go of ego and practice presence over and over during your visit, especially with an unresponsive patient. You might wonder, “What am I even doing here?” What may help give you a different perspective is to ask yourself a different question, “If for some reason I could not be at the bedside of my loved one and that loved one could not respond in any way, would I want someone at their bedside?” The answer to this question is almost always a resounding “YES”.
The work of being with a hospice patient is often challenging . Meaningful, yes, but still challenging. The goal is not perfection. The goal is to be open to and comfortable with the simplicity and power of presence.