Perhaps the fundamental requirement for hospice volunteers is an open mind. Assumptions and first impressions rarely predict reality. I met a soft-spoken woman who was once a nun, then later became a theme park belly dancer. I met an ex-Marine officer and small-town police chief, a self-described “soldier by nature,” who denounced all wars after 1945 as senseless bloodbaths. I met a former civil rights activist upset that minorities were moving into his neighborhood.
That’s from the August Reflections essay in AJN, “House of Death, House of Life.” The author, Ezra Ochshorn, explores the moments of tragedy and levity he encounters in his work as a hospice volunteer, the powerful impression made on him by people who are either at peace or full of “bitterness and regrets” as they approach death, his realization that his most important task is to be in the “here and now” with each person—and then to do his best to take this lesson back into his own life.