Tuesday, June 16, 2009


That’s how one patient of Circle of Caring at The Hospice of the Good Shepherd described the organization in a recent letter to the editor of The Newton Tab. Roz Bessell of Natick, MA declared that “There is a special feeling of safety and security when one is in the hands of these amazing and outstanding people. I feel very fortunate and blessed despite my difficult illness to be a patient of the Hospice of the Good Shepard, Circle of Caring.”

As a new member of the board of Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd I have become immersed in a popular topic that is getting lots of attention. Listen to the National Public Radio series aired on Talk of the Nation the week of April 27, 2009 which addresses issues of death and dying including the latest trend – home funerals. Latest trend?? Isn’t that how funerals were conducted before the funeral home industry took over?

Another inspiring Circle of Caring story was highlighted in the Boston Globe. An article featured Evelyn Raphel, a current hospice patient who is an accomplished sculptor. Rabbi Carol Glass, HGS’s chaplain, suggested the idea of an exhibition of Ms. Raphel's art. Through the encouragement, hard work and compassion of Ms. Raphel’s team at Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd she was able to show her work one last time.

Unlike the traveler in Robert Frost’s poem - The Road Not Taken - I am able to travel various health care paths, including health IT, Health 2.0, nutrition science, etc. I am glad for my journey with Hospice of the Good Shepherd and a chance to support its mission and extraordinary work.

1 comment:

Jennifer Sax, Director of Outreach said...

I grew up in a house where we talked about death. My mother, a nurse by trade, was well versed in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages, and books like “Love, Medicine and Miracles” and “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” were frequently a centerpiece on our coffee table. Recurrent were conversations about aging, what life-prolonging measures she explicitly did not want, and how we, her children, should “chant her into the light” when the time comes and let her die comfortably, at home. When I was 14 my mother enrolled us in a training to become hospice volunteers at a newly opened residential program for men at the end stages of HIV/AIDS. Once a week, we would prepare meals for the residents and provide our compassionate presence as they lived their final months, days, hours.

I am aware that this is not necessarily the norm, and at the time, I thought she was crazy. Why this inherent desire to talk about dying all the time? We were so young…what did we need to know about dying and death?

In his “final thesis” Tuesdays with Morrie, composed with one of his greatest students, Morrie Schwartz endears himself to us with his timeless wisdom, “Learn how to die, and you learn how to live.” Perhaps this is what my mother was trying to teach me all along. Perhaps, as Sogyol Rinpoche teaches us in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, “…we can actually use our lives to prepare for death. We do not have to wait for the painful death of someone close to us or the shock of terminal illness to force us into looking at our lives…We can make every moment an opportunity to change and to prepare - wholeheartedly, precisely, and with peace of mind – for death and eternity.”

It is rather fitting that my professional career has led me to a position at Circle of Caring at Hospice of the Good Shepherd, given my unconventional childhood. Often, my work presents opportunities to create increased awareness and education about dying, death and a multitude of issues having to do with the end of life. A few months ago, I had the experience of talking about dying, death and hospice with a group of ten-year old girls. Although the girls were initially a bit hesitant, after only a few minutes, much to my surprise, my questions had sparked a vibrant dialogue. After all, death is as integral, natural and predictable a part of life as birth. Perhaps we really are never too young to start preparing for its course.