As a western trained physician, I was taught that the most important if not the only thing I had to offer to people was my expertise and my bag of techniques. I believed that I could easily be replaced in all of my patient relationships by any other physician well trained in my specialty and that my absence would have the same effect as drawing my finger from a bucket of water. For many years I believed that this was true.
But, what is real is often seen most clearly on the edges of things, in the places where our tools are no longer relevant and our book learning no longer matters. In the places beyond cure. In 1981 when I first began hospice work it was like stepping from an operating room into a church. The deep relational values and art of the healer, long buried by years of technical training slowly revealed themselves in all of their power and mystery until at last I recognized that medicine itself was not a work of science but a work of love.
To work in Hospice is to know yourself to be one of a kind, discover that your presence is the greatest gift you offer and that you can heal by touch and witness far more powerfully than by intellect alone.
The power to heal is a human birthright. This beautiful poem captures the coming home to ourselves and our birthright of healing that many of us have experienced in hospice work:
What I Learned From My Mother
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the seeds with a knife point.
I learned how to attend viewings even when I didn’t know
the deceased, to press moist hands
and offer sympathy, as though I understood loss, even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned I had the power
to ease pain, like an angel.
I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness,
and once you know how to do this,
to every house you enter, you offer healing:
a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your touch.
Copyright 1992 by Julia Kasdorf
Hope to see you at the workshop…..