Friday, July 18, 2008

Hospice volunteer training

Today was my third out of four full days of hospice volunteer training. I have six more hours tomorrow, and then I'll be more or less ready to start work as a volunteer. On the whole, training has been very good - informative, productive and interesting. I've learned an incredible amount about the process of dying - the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of it, both from the patient's point of view and from the survivors'.

Last Saturday was a particularly intense morning. We went through a guided imagery meditation on what it's like to be diagnosed with and die from a terminal illness. I'm sure I only felt a fraction of the emotions I'd experience in real life, but that was enough for me - it was heartbreaking. It made me remember a dream I had 10 or 15 years ago, in which I had opted for euthenasia and was at my own pre-funeral. I woke up sobbing, because I couldn't stand the thought of leaving my family behind. Discussions of this kind of loss are not easy to have. I'm grateful for the range of experience and insight that my classmates bring to the table.

From what our leaders and classmates keep telling us, being part of the dying process can be a profoundly good thing. I'm nervous about starting this work, but excited somehow. Already, this training has given me a deeper perspective on my life, and I can only imagine how it will develop over the course of this year.

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