There is a word association game that is often used to discover what comes to mind when asked about a specific word. The game is simple: Someone says a word and you tell them the first word that comes to mind.
What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word hospice?
For most people in the world of hospice, the word you probably think of is death. Why is it that death is the first word that comes to mind?
Well, is it because death is the finish line of hospice care?
Is it because people that are on hospice care are told they are going to die?
Whatever the reason, most of us naturally associate hospice with death.
Eventually, we will all die. Whether we are on hospice care or not, that is the truth. No one can escape it. It is an inevitable reality of life. However, between now and death, we live. Hospice should not fall into the category of death. Hospice, properly defined, should fall into the category of life. Hospice is the time of a person’s life where they have the opportunity to live their life with an expiration date; to truly live each day knowing it could very well be their last. We cannot presume to understand what a person experiences after being told that they have 6 months or less to live, but what we can do, is make sure that a person is surrounded by people who care deeply about them and make sure they know that they are never alone.
Have you ever heard someone say that life is a marathon?
There is a lot of truth to this. At the start of a marathon you are surrounded by thousands of people filled with energy and enthusiastic expectation about how the race will go. As you approach the 10 mile marker, the number of people around you begins to decline and the amount of energy you feel is nowhere near what it was at the start of the race. By mile 24 of the marathon (only 2 left), you are likely running by yourself. The thousands of people that started the race with you are either far ahead or far behind. During these last couple of miles in isolation, you begin to realize how exhausted and unmotivated you are. Your pace slows and your feet become heavier and heavier. Your knees begin to ache and every part of your body is telling you to stop.
But just as you begin to feel as though you can no longer keep your feet moving, you see a crowd of people clapping and cheering you on from the sidelines. All of a sudden, your feet are filled with life. The clapping and cheering of the crowds empower you to keep pushing on and finish the race the way you started it. Hospice care is the cheering crowd of life. With hospice, we are able to lift people up who are tired and hurting. Our comforting presence and support empowers hospice patients and their families. Our duty, as the cheering crowd, is to ensure that they make it to the finish line the way they hoped for when they started the marathon of life. Strong, resolute, and with a sense of fulfillment and victory.
Our Challenge to the hospice community
We challenge those in the world of hospice to no longer allow death to be the first word that comes to mind when hospice is mentioned. Instead, we challenge you to think of care, love, family, home, support. And most importantly, we challenge you to think of life.
- The SONO Team