Two things are certain in this life, we are born and we will one day die. The time of death is uncertain, and in our life between these two we try and be of benefit to our families, community, country and the world at large.
We are all part of the same human family; we are all interconnected. This has been highlighted over the past two years with the pandemic. News bulletins brought us graphic images of family and friends mourning because they were not able to be with their loved ones before death and for the funeral. Harrowing images of countries being in lockdown showed us so many people dying daily and corpses being loaded into trucks heading to the cemetery for mass graves.
For a while the world went quiet as we all felt the sorrow of people who were unknown to us, as well as the fear of what lay ahead. We each dealt with it differently according to our cultural background and conditional on whether we are able to face our own mortality.
Fear is a feeling that comes usually because we don’t know about the issue that is confronting us, we have no experience with it, and we can’t predict what is going to happen. We don’t know what to do. Losing confidence in ourselves, we get shaky.
It is an indictment on us all that we can talk to someone on the other side of the world and even in space through technology, but because of fear avoid face-to-face communication with a work-mate or someone we see every day, or people within our own family… but especially someone who is dying.
When I first heard of Dr James Jap, I read his bio on the Hospice website. It was the idea he shared about compassionate communities which resonated because that is a value that fits like a glove with my view of the world. “Striving for better solutions. Achieving success by working together and valuing each other’s skills and contributions.”
Education is the key to unlock the door for the Hospice Service to reach the people that need the service. I have always maintained that the good thing about when someone you love is dying, is you get to meet some really kind, generous people, people that you would not normally meet. Why? Because seeing suffering up close is an opening for compassion to arise.
Two days after my father died, I went to the supermarket. I didn’t know whether I could do the shopping without crying, so I chose to go at 6am to maximize my chances of success. It was going fine until I got to the counter and the shop assistant said to me, “Are you OK, love?” and touched my arm. I burst into tears and managed to mumble a thank you before pushing the trolley as fast as I could out the door.
Strangely it was the acknowledgement of my suffering that comforted me at that time. In many ways that is what Hospice does. Hospice puts their hand out to help at a time when people don’t know how to help themselves. The Hospice reach needs to be far and wide, to all communities. Talk show guest spots on Radio Pasifika, Maori, Chinese, Indian or other ethnic stations would help get the message across about Hospice services, so language is not a barrier to knowledge. We are all human and will all die one day. We all need compassion.
Far too often we keep it to ourselves that a loved one is dying and try to “get over it”. We are afraid to ask for help, to admit our shakiness and sorrow. The emotion lies dormant and then when someone talks about death, the memory that was dormant resurfaces like a volcano because it was never expressed.
Planting the seed of knowledge will remove the weed of ignorance. My precious teacher would always say if you plant a tomato seed it is not going to turn into a pumpkin. Similarly if you want Hospice awareness in all communities then you have to sow the seed of compassionate communities.
My teacher told me dying is like being at an airport, the dying one is already at the departure gate waiting for the boarding call, whilst the rest of us are at the departure lounge. Hospice is there to say, “You are not alone, I can help you through this if you want. We can work together with your loved one to provide the best care, whether it be at your home or at ours. It can happen in whatever way you and your family want. We can help you to support your loved one and your loving carers in this difficult time. We have the knowledge, so you don’t have to be afraid.”
How can we reach everyone who would benefit? Maybe we need to introduce Hospice through people who are already known and trusted. We human beings have such diverse interests, professions and cultures. There are sports clubs, like rugby, hockey, swimming, rowing, bowls and so forth. There are churches, craft groups, garden and car clubs. Perhaps someone who is a club member could invite Hospice to come give a talk, so people can ask questions. Or someone could extend an invitation through a teachers’ professional development session, Elite Athletes Foundation, Lions or Rotary Clubs, Corrections staff, Rainbow community.
What clubs do you belong to?
Who is that someone? …That someone is you…