I think November is such a great month to celebrate Hospice and Palliative Care because it is also the month that we are reminded to give thanks for all the meaningful moments in our lives. I’ve spent the majority of my professional career in health care but it wasn’t until I came to hospice that I found my purpose. As a hospice social worker, I had the privilege of helping and supporting patients and families through what is often the most emotional and difficult time of their lives. I have found that it is often at the most unexpected times that we learn the most important lessons about ourselves and the value of our work. One particular situation stands out for me. It was my 15th wedding anniversary and my husband and I had dinner plans to celebrate. But I was on call and got called out to sit with a patient who was dying. When I arrived, I found the patient comfortable in bed with her husband sitting next to her at bedside. He started to tell me their story —a love story that spanned 72 years across 3 continents, 4 children, 12 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren. As he spoke of his wife and the life they shared, his eyes filled with tears as he broke down and cried, then he leaned over and kissed her. I just sat and listened but I still remember how it took my breath away. The power of being present at that moment. As I was leaving late into the night, he hugged me and told me I was an angel. Several months later, he sent me a note thanking me for the time spent that night (his wife died the next day). Those are moments that matter. As hospice workers, we are blessed and honored to be invited to share the space during the most intimate and emotional of moments. I can’t imagine a life’s work that is more meaningful or important.
I often tell new staff coming into Transitions the story of a conversation I had with a trusted friend when I was contemplating the idea of going to work for a hospice. She told me, “You don’t choose hospice, hospice chooses you.” I have found that to be true time and time again. So many of the people that walk through our doors at Transitions are called to us because they have the same values and mission as we do; they understand the unique nature of caring for the sick and dying and they have a deep respect for the fact that we don’t get second chances in this work. People only die once so we have to give our best to them each and every day.
It truly has been one of the biggest honors of my life -having the opportunity to lead this amazing company and have a front row seat to the work that is done here every day. This year’s theme for National Hospice and Palliative Care Month is “It’s about how you live” which is just the perfect way to describe what good hospice care should look like —helping and supporting patients to live life to the fullest, embracing each day, and giving thanks for all the meaningful moments in our lives. Because really, isn’t that what life’s all about?
Transitions Hospice exists because of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing me every day what it means to truly live out a mission.
Written by Sara Dado, Executive Director, Transitions Hospice