Thursday, August 06, 2009

History, Hospice, Compassion, Change

I have been thinking a lot about hospice care. According toone history, the word "hospice" comes from the Latin word, hospes: to host a guest or stranger. The history of hospice, of medicine, of care for the sick and dying is a fascinating one. The founder of the modern hospice movement is said to be Dame Cicely Saunders, in 1967. She was inspired by a patient. In 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published "On Death and Dying," which became a bestseller. She is well known for many things, including the way she was treated by vandals who burned her home. (Those who have gone against the common collective mode of thought have often been made to leave by fire torching their homes. Where there's smoke, there's fire!)..

It’s interesting to read about how tribes of us in ancient times responded to those who were ill and dying. Since death of one so affected the life of a group, the group responded. One supported the other – this was the nature of “community.” Roles developed, as did superstitions, so some were left to die alone and some were thought to have healing powers (“medicine” men or women). As medicine and hospitals developed, before we developed “germ theory,” many people died as diseases spread within hospitals. Families often preferred to keep their loved ones at home, because they feared they would not leave the “house of death.” I never thought about this history before, I suppose because I haven’t had reason to – i.e., the reasons that have been there, in our history, and made more visible with our current disease care and health care reform conditions, never got my attention. Things get our attention when we recognize how they affect us personally. I’m drawn to knowing more about compassion, how we have lived it, those who have initiated acts and movements (such as hospice) which were (and are) counter to the conditions that were growing in a physical way which wasn’t keeping pace with the Ethical Values that steer us as thinking energy beings. When I feel the tug of attention to something or someone, I pay attention in a different way now. I’m more open to knowing this is an “energy relationship,” because I am an energy being. Energy always moves and changes, and my mind, as an energy field, seeks to know itself in the love or the fear that is comfortable, inviting. Compassion compels me now, more than ever before in my life.

I think about hospice now and, as one web site states, hospice now is not so much a place but a philosophy. The purpose remains the same – “for them to find rest, to be cared for and to gather courage to face the remaining days of their journey together.” I can apply this to all of life! There is no agenda except compassion, human to human. This is why NDP, and studying who we are as energy beings, is so profound to me. Our history as human beings does not begin with our physical acts, our warfare, our beliefs, our life and death. Our history begins as energy creating.

When I review my experiences, I remember the patience change requires, the grace that comes with patience, the strength and courage that are called upon. As I live and learn, I’m beginning to recognize how each reflection of each experience, individual and communal, reveals our acceptance or fear of knowing ourselves as energy beings. Years ago I remember asking Dad if he was afraid of dying. He smiled, looked surprised, and also pained, No! he said. Not at all. I remember the look on his face. His faith was strong, his sense of life and change in keeping with his love. I think about all we do to show ourselves that we must learn to honor life, cherish life and those we love – including the Earth from which we are made.

Part of my growing up has been the acceptance of change as real, as an energy force always in motion. (You can’t push the river!). Love cradles, supports, honors, cherishes, communicates, celebrates. Life and death are one. One thing I remember from our latest Spiritual Philosophy event which has meant a lot to me is, if we don’t want to see ourselves as spirit energy, we will reject Ethical Values.

Energy fields-
The smiles, vague light,
The energy motion makes and takes.

Before he died Dad smiled and said, I’ve been talking to God about it. Honoring life as death. He tried so hard to think, physically, then, but the chemistry, the energy wasn’t there, could not gather enough together.

Cotton bolls, corn belt, tobacco dirt, leaves, dark juice. Each bone, each tooth, each sparkle of glitter has its layers, the growth it shows, the cells remember, the mind floats. Sweet dreams of days blend into nights, alive.

As I listen to all of the dialogue about health care reform, I'm reminded of the courage needed to challenge "what is," how we are called upon to take all change personally, as energy beings. The relationships of life, of institutions and realities we create, are all our responsibility. Habits and institutions are not our creators, we are! Thank you, all pioneers whose guiding light is the Ethical Values of our internal (Intelligent) design.


Maat said...

With our collective health and wellness much in the forefront of our minds at present, I enjoyed reading this piece. In fact, I was giving hospice-type care (and it's compassion) quite some thought the other day. No particular reason other than what care would I want or expect to have "down the road apiece". Frankly, alleviate excruciating pain for me and it would be enough but let me decide. I believe in the philosophy of caring for and sharing our loved ones transition. I have done it, wouldn't consider doing anything else...whether it be formal hospice care or simply hospitable care by/of a family member of beloved friend. Yet another instance of where, while I don't...and wouldn't want in the past a return to some of our so-called "old fashioned ways" (taking care of our own with love and in gratitude for the opportunity) could be a worthy change.

M.E.Martin said...

Thanks, Maat- I appreciate your comment, and remember some of your sharing well...:)