So much has happened in my world in the last few months. My therapist rightly says I’ve lived a lifetime. And that’s kind of how it feels.
Before applying for, interviewing for, and accepting a job as a Spiritual Care Practitioner, I had been some time in a liminal space. It was a hard but necessary season. It was a season of letting go of a people, a position and a place I loved. A place I believed I would grow old at. And then God asked me, in an obvious way, to lay it down. So I did.
Fast forward to Winter 2020, and I’m now in a new role. Fast forward to January 2021, and I’m now supporting and ministering to people. People who are actively dying. In hospice, the general rule of thumb is that only those who have a life expectancy of up to 3 months are admitted. Some are with us as little as 24 hours, while others are with us for several weeks.
As an educator on and student of leadership, I’m well aware of all the business teachings that tell us to “get up to speed faster,” “make your mark,” and “secure early wins,” but here’s the thing: End of Life Care is not about you, it’s about your patient.
So, as a way of taking you along on the journey, here are some of my top takeaways from my first 90 days.
- It’s okay not to know. There is a lot I don’t know or understand right now.
- Every human being is made in the image of God.
- How we speak to people matters. How people receive their diagnosis matters.
- Our understanding of death matters.
- An informed choice is important.
- Fear is a real thing for some, as is peace.
- Listening is caring.
- Physical touch is sacred and holy. To hug or to hold the hand of another is a loving act.
- Sorrow and pain are different. Jesus experienced both.
- Neither my bible college nor seminary days prepared me to do end-of-life care. My doctorate will. We must choose to learn this; it’s not a common discussion, at least in my fellowship.
- Use your manners.
- Don’t be afraid to get close.
- Our bodies go through several stages of change the closer to death we are. It can be a shock to the system if you’re not prepared.
- You can come to love and adore people very quickly.
- You will have stories that trigger you – you must know yourself and commit to staying holistically healthy.
This is a question that lingers for me: What are the final acts of living while dying?
One author suggests there are four acts of living. They are as follows:
- I love you.
- I forgive you.
- Please forgive me.
- Thank you.
May you live well today,