Wednesday, August 10, 2005

M&M at the Hospice

Saturday I played Martha to e's Mary. She's soon to be trained as a volunteer at the AIDS hospice, so when we needed help on Saturday (there were only two of us scheduled for the morning) I enlisted her assistance.

We made it clear to the on-duty nurse that she wasn't experienced and that she might need a little extra assistance in knowing how to assist in the care of the residents. But the first task she took on didn't require any advance training.

She sat with a dying resident.

I played the same role the last time I was at the hospice and, to be totally honest, I envied "e" just a bit. The magnitude of being present when someone is slipping away is a holy time.

Instead, I mopped, cleaned toilets and sinks, changed beds, and lifted the dead weight of a couple of residents a couple of times (not for the weak of heart or back when one of the reasons for the lifting was for a bathroom break!).

"e" eventually left the bedside to assist with much of this as well and before she left, she'd seen her fair share of mop water and fecal matter.

Later in the day I pondered our initial roles. I've come to realize at this particular hospice that our "ministry" is as much to the staff as it is to the residents. On this day, the nurse didn't happen to be one of our more energetic ones. And she's not always a happy camper either, easily pointing out the inequities of her regular shift's volunteers not being quite up to parr with our team that's been doing this for a decade now. So when she asked for us to try to get in all the bed changes as well as complete breakfasts and lunches . . . well, I wanted to oblige. But obliging meant I was focused much more on the doing than the being.

Sometimes Martha gets a bad rap. But this day, I reveled in my doing and relished e's being. And in the midst of a place personifying much of what's wrong in the world, I felt a peculiar sense of rightness.

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