Hospice Volunteering

Hello, Beautiful Dancers.

How glorious that we get to do this dance thing together again tomorrow morning. Yay oh yay.

And I’m beyond thrilled to tell you that it’s Lori behind the deck; holding the space, providing the wonderfully thoughtful and considered music, dropping pearls of wisdom in our collective pond.

I want to take a moment to tell you about my weekly hospice shift. On Tuesday night I sat at the bedside of one of my favorite residents, Charlie (not his real name). He’s been with us for maybe 2-3 months and I always have the most delightful conversations. Two weeks ago, I noticed we both happened to be wearing red. When I called this to his attention, he looked me in the eye, shot up his eyebrows in mock surprise, and said, “yeah, it’s end-of-life mental telepathy.” You don’t often find a lot of hospice humor, but Charlie’s got it in spades. As I was preparing to leave his room this week, he said, “I have something new on my basket list.” He sputtered a bit in playful frustration and said, “that’s not the word I want.” “Bucket list?” I say, and he nods. He then says to me, “I want to tell you I love you before I die.” My whole being goes soft and melty at this point. I smile and whisper, “Charlie, you just did.” And then I express my love for him too. Such a sweet, sweet being. And yes, I did have tears in my eyes as I walked out the door. This is why I volunteer, for connections like these, for moments like these, for the tenderness of that exchange. What a gift.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that often, I’ve not been “all in” in any given activity. Hospice is different. When I’m at Laguna Honda Hospital on the palliative care ward, I’m “all in” in the very best of ways. I notice my desire to write these words and have them be true, “and when I’m at dance, I’m ‘all in’”, but I know that not to be the case. Sometimes I’m tired or I’m just not “feeling it” . . .and so I struggle, but I’m taking it as an intention to be “all in”-- to be more fully present-- more often in life and especially at dance.

Here's a poem that seems to me to capture that sensibility:

Caretake This Moment

Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed.

Quit the evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now. You are not some disinterested bystander. Exert yourself.

Respect your partnership with providence. Ask yourself often, How may I perform this particular deed such that it would be consistent with and acceptable to the divine will? Heed the answer and get to work.

When your doors are shut and your room is dark you are not alone. The will of nature is within you as your natural genius is within. Listen to its importunings. Follow its directives.

As concerns the art of living, the material is your own life. No great thing is created suddenly. There must be time.

Give your best and always be kind.

~ Epictetus ~

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