Doula work is heart work. It is hard for some to understand why we want to spend our time with dying people. But we doulas know that many people choose to live fully until the moment they take their final breath. And that is why we do what we do. We are companions, walking alongside those who choose to live with intention and purpose until they die. We are facilitators… there with our clients to address whatever it is that needs to rise to the surface. We are facilitators of love, of communication, of grief, of joy, of reconciliation, of legacy, of silence. We are facilitators of peace, of conversation, of processing emotions and of holding space. We are facilitators of planning, of coordinating, of preparing, and eventually, we are facilitators of sitting vigil and creating comfort. We show up.
End-of-life doulas show up, wholeheartedly. We love, unconditionally. We listen, without judgment. We give, and we receive. Life is about love. It’s about loving each other well, loving deeply and sometimes it’s about letting go of love, too. I can’t think of any work that is more centered in love than that of an end-of-life doula.
This is a story from my hospice journal. It reflects not what we give as a doula, but what we receive…
Eyes of Gratitude
Today I visited three dying men at our Hospice House. Fred was the first and he is a kind and gentle soul. He is now, like he was many years before, simple and innocent, like a baby. He gently relaxes and allows me to care for him. He does not speak, but I can see the gratitude in his eyes.
Next, I went to see Mr. H., who has been slowing down over the past five weeks, but really declining these past few days. He asks for a back rub and I am honored. It occurs to me that this may be the last time someone rubs his back, and I take my time and make sure that he knows that, for this sweet time, he is all that matters to me. He smiles at me, and slowly lifts his hand over his heart, and I see the gratitude in his eyes.
Then there’s Ralph. Last week Ralph was shouting out and angry. Today he is peaceful and calm. Everything about him seems slower and he has stopped eating solid foods. But he loves strawberry ice cream, and I get to feed him a giant bowl with pieces of fresh strawberries. I try to make each spoonful just perfect. He savors every bite, staring into my eyes the entire time. When he is finished, he whispers a soft, sweet “thank you” and he smiles. But he didn’t have to, because I already saw the gratitude in his eyes.
© Diane Button 2019 - EndofLifeDoulaAlliance.com