Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Those who truly teach do so through their actions.
Last week I presented my vision for Universal Healthcare Directives at the Gateway Alliance End of Life Conference held in St. Louis, Missouri. I was prepared to teach the audience how to apply the golden rule of loving one another as ourselves, in particular, during the “golden years.” What I learned from stepping outside the Emergency Department was that hospice volunteers have been quietly spreading this message for years. They are not paid to care; they simply care from their hearts. Their acts of kindness readily connect with others emotionally, demonstrating compassion in action.
Similar to guardian angels, we may not always notice volunteers among us. Unassumingly sitting in my audience, I saw them as messengers who speak my language. I remember one of these messengers, appearing as a spiritual guide during my early years of practicing Emergency Medicine. She called my attention a book titled, “Conversations with God.” While I was already talking with God, it was not through casual conversation. Having read this book, I voluntarily exchanged my catechism for an adult conversation with God, expanding my wingspan of spirituality. I tilted these wings to align my human existence with a spiritual awareness.
We are challenged to love ourselves throughout life. Particularly challenging is loving ourselves if diseased or bed-ridden. Family members are not always adept at knowing exactly how to love us to death. Hospice volunteers have a knack for knowing what to do without needing to be told how or what to say. Not becoming hung-up on what the mind of God might be or how God works in mysterious ways, these individuals simply focus on loving from the heart; love becoming a ministry, not a mystery. People at the end of life need to know that they are loved. Hospice volunteers convey the message that love can be both unconditional and unspoken.
Hospice volunteers invite us to attend a spiritual banquet through thanks and giving. They have an attitude of gratitude that compels giving from their blessings. More importantly, they teach us all how to count our blessings, making those blessings count through selfless deeds. Their spirit is what we might choose to take to heart while taking our last breath.