Hospice Workers Deserve Our Gratitude

My friend Evelyn passed away in a beautiful hospice room at the Mayo Clinic this past week. She was a member of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”. Raised on a farm in Indiana during the Great Depression, Evelyn spent her young adulthood filling munitions with gunpowder in a defense plant in Nebraska.

“Didn’t care to bring anymore innocent children into the world during the Depression or the war,” she once told me; “didn’t think it was fair.” She lived her entire life a spinster, as she referred to herself, earning a living and doing life’s chores without anyone to share the burdens.

The desert outside Tucson, Arizona is an unforgiving landscape inhabited only by snakes, scorpions, lizards, the occasional coyote, and Evelyn. She was tough on herself but easy on the natural world she lived in. “I consider myself a steward of the land,” she said. She allowed herself only the barest essentials and if she inadvertently ended up with two of something, she would quickly give one away. However, she never stopped nursing the cactus and agave and Palo Verde and Mesquite trees that surrounded her.

When she finally fell and couldn’t get up, we placed her for her final days in hospice care at Mayo Clinic. “I have never been taken care of before,” she whispered with a smile the last time she could speak. “They straighten my bed and wash me and never say a word. They just smile and take care of everything. I never…”

All the employees of the hospice seemed to have the same delicate touch. They were gentle but attentive, accepting but encouraging, tender but resigned. They all understood that hospice is a dying place not a healing place. Comfort and dignity are the gifts they work so hard to provide. And that’s exactly what they gave Evelyn.

These professionals deserve our admiration and gratitude. They bring kindness and grace to the world of the dying, dignifying life's most profound moment.

Posted in: Social Services Industry NewsElderly/Aging Long Term Care

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