the soul of hospice
By Adam Sheldt
Published in Buffalo Healthy Living Magazine
Working to sit up in her bed, I was greeted with warm eyes and a gentle smile. It was clear that some strength had faded since we last met, but the kindness so evident in her eyes was stronger than ever.
I first met Alice nearly five months ago, and we enjoyed a nice long chat on her porch. She reminisced about the many years she had spent in her home and the warm, wonderful evenings spent with some tea on her porch swing – “Yes, yes, yes, I did. I had a good life,” said Alice.
Since that time, I was blessed to get to know Alice, her son, her daughter, and even some grandchildren. As I visited every few weeks or so, I would listen with all the compassion, loving-kindness, and presence I could, and in return I received heart-warming tales of births and marriages, memories of holiday gatherings, and foundation myths of the best inside-jokes any family could offer. And likewise, those very same visits also blessed me with the gift of listening to struggles, to questions that have no answer, and to the darker fears of what might unfold as Alice’s strength waned and she moved closer to her final days.
Alice passed almost a week after our last visit. I walked up the steps to that hallowed porch one last time; her family and I held one another’s hands. They shared both sorrow and love. I shared a prayer.
There is both sadness and beauty in Alice’s story. And it’s that mix – that dance of emotions – that brings so much fulfillment to the work that I and so many others do at Hospice. I have learned that Hospice is nothing short of transformative. It is transformative, first and foremost, for patients who can find comfort and ease; for families whom we help care for loved ones; and even for us – the clinicians who are blessed to accompany people through some of their most sad and also beautiful moments.
Indeed, I was just one of many (including doctors, nurses, social workers, and even massage therapists) who got the chance to care for Alice. As her spiritual care counselor, I offered her the space to share and be whatever and whoever she needed to be. Our time together helped her find meaning and fostered her personal sense of spirituality into a true source of solace and comfort. We all came together to help Alice be her very best self for as long as possible. And even now, through our bereavement programs, we are still providing compassionate care to Alice’s family.
In both the sad and beautiful, it’s a gift to be able to care so directly and so meaningfully for patients and their families – a gift that I and so many others feel honored to receive.
November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care serves nearly 900 patients and their families every day. To learn more about the incredible programs and services, including respite, support groups, referrals for individual counseling, and so much more, visit www.HospiceBuffalo.com or call 716-686-8000.
Adam Scheldt is Director of Spiritual Care at Hospice Buffalo.