As he's not a doctor, nurse, or professional social worker, just a volunteer lending a hand, offering a respite for other care providers, his charges often reveal more, and in more detail, to him than they do to those with whom they spend the majority of their time. They impart what they feel are life lessons as they reflect on their own lives and the prospect of their last days.
Lindner captures it all in his lively storytelling. Anyone who knows or loves someone working through end of life issues, living in hospice or other end of life facilities, or dealing with terminal or chronic illnesses, will find in these pages the wisdom of those who are working through their own end of life issues, tackling life's big questions, and boiling them down into lessons for anyone as they age or face illness. And those who may feel compelled to volunteer to serve as companions will find motivation, inspiration, and encouragement. Rather than sink under the weight of depression, pity, or sorrow, Lindner celebrates the lives of those who choose to live even as they die.
Eric is doing well financially and has a wife and kids. He felt the need to give back and was lucky enough to be able to become a hospice volunteer. Many people in their final days are alone, living in poverty and/or are afraid. Hospice volunteers spend time with these people hoping to make their last days happier and more comfortable. During his training, Eric learned that the average hospice patient survives three months ... patients he was assigned to slipped away within hours while others thrived for years.
In this book, we get to know Bob, Little One, Dolly, Gordon, Ellen, Howard and Cricket. And Eric doesn't just give comfort to them but also to their families. In fact, he keeps in touch with some of the families after his patients have passed on.
I was expecting it to be depressing but it wasn't. Yes, there is a lot of death but it's not dealt on ... most are a phone call or a text. The focus instead is on learning the stories of Eric patients and the joy they receive in Eric's company as their days starting winding down.
It sounds like it takes a fair bit of time and dedication to be a hospice volunteer. I guess it depends on how many patients you have and the level of commitment you give them. Eric was taking them on errands, bringing them cookies and cakes, calling when he was out of town, sending postcards, etc. While I think volunteering would be an awesome thing to do, I don't think I could handle it emotionally ... getting to know someone only to lose them so soon.
I would recommend this book.
All book profits will be donated to organizations committed to improving the lives of hospice patients and their families.