Heading into my third day of hospice training today. So far, so good. I am impressed with the organization – everyone who has come in to talk to us about what they do has shown committment and passion for the work, which is heartening. This is a place where everyone is doing what they believe in, and enjoying it – strange to say about a job that is all about death, but there it is. They know that what they are doing makes a difference, and that is why they love it.
Our ‘class’ – meaning this particular group of volunteers who is training right now – is a very interesting mix. A few are there because they have a vague wish to do something good; make a difference in one person’s life. One is a psychology student who is uncomfortable with death and wants to meet it head-on (bravo!). One (our token male) is a ‘recovering’ paramedic who has seen death and wants to do more long-term patient care. One is a cancer survivor, whose sister died of cancer and had hospice care, and is now taking college classes and seems to be basically having a ‘do-over’ of her life. And me, the retired midwife. Huzzah!
The class dynamic has been good so far, and it seems most of us have the macabre sense of humor that is necessary for the job. I haven’t been in a classroom setting for years, so it is interesting for me to just watch how it all plays out: there are a few who are silent, and never really contribute anything unless called upon to speak. There are those who speak easily when appropriate (I hope I am one of them). And then there is one who is filling the role of that one – you know the one – the one who ALWAYS has a personal story to tell for EVERY point the instructor makes. The one who cannot just say “I totally agree”, but has to share for many moments before concluding “So, I agree.” The one who put us way behind on the first day, because the instructor (who is fabulous) values sharing and processing and honestly doesn’t seem to mind when the talk goes off the rails. He wants it to be a dialogue – wants us to talk openly about our feelings on death and dying. And besides, with the topic being so heavy, you don’t want to say to someone “yeah, yeah, we get it: you understand it better than most because of xyz, now can we please move on?”. So, they talked, and talked… That person wasn’t there for the second training, and it was honestly a smoother day. We covered all we needed to cover, everyone got a chance to share a bit, and it was good. We shall see what today brings.
I realized, in watching this unfold, that I used to be that person. I always had to share – always had to show how wise and knowledgable I was. Had to make sure everyone realized that I was ON IT. Oh, how I loathe that person that I was. I swear, I look back on my life and I have far more memories that make me cringe that I do memories that make me smile, and that’s sad. It’s not that I live a life of regret – far from it. I just wish that I had learned how to shut up a lot sooner.
I have learned so much from just two training sessions. The history of hospice care – which makes so much sense – and how it started with one women, taking a look at how people died. Remarkable. Finding out that Medicare actually covers the cost of hospice care – and that one year of palliative and hospice end-of-life care costs the same as one E.R. visit! And yet, looking at these upcoming elections, who knows what will happen to Medicare. The right to die with dignity in your own home will become yet another privilege for the chosen (wealthy) few. But, let’s not delve into politics, shall we?
On the second training day we talked about the grief process – the ebb and flow of it; the things people who are grieving may experience. It was clear to all of us. It made sense, we’ve been through it, we understood it. Still, I was taken aback to hear that for the majority of people, it doesn’t make sense. They will not recognize the stages, they will not suspect grief when they are irritable, forgetful, distracted, ill, or exhausted. Interesting stuff. I have understood grief since I placed Tyler for adoption. Will I be able to help others recognize it? I think so.
Most of all I feel appreciated. I have never volunteered for anything where it was made clear from the get-go how valuable and appreciated I am. This place genuinely makes me feel that I am not just a volunteer – I am a member of a team. It’s a nice feeling.
And off I go to day three. 🙂