Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The life of the party

One of  the things I've been able to do with increased time off is make myself available during the daytime to the hospice organization where I'm a volunteer. Usually I do vigils -- sitting with a patient who has entered the dying process. Death from natural causes is often a lengthy process, as the person slowly winds down.

Vigil service isn't for everyone, but to me it's a very holy time. It's an honor to be present with the patient and his or her family as the transition to the next stage of existence (whatever you feel that is) approaches.

Lat Friday evening I sat with Edward. He was 95 years old, and had only infrequent visits from his daughter, herself just recovering from a painful surgery and unable to drive.

Ed was past talking -- and may not have known I was there. But I held his hand anyway and spoke words of reassurance from time to time. I tried to surround him with a warm, loving aura. It's all you can do, really.

For the vigil volunteer, family photographs are a blessing. Just as all babies bear a certain resemblance to one another, so do many folks who have reached the end of earthly life. Helpless we arrive, and helpless go. So pictures are a wonderful way to appreciate the owner of that hand you're holding.

Edward had two pictures. In one, he was standing next to his daughter at her wedding, beaming with delight into the camera, tall and straight in his dove-gray tux and bow-tie. His graying hair was on the long side, and rather curly. He seemed to be the happiest dad in the world.

In the other picture, his smile is even broader, and there's a distinct twinkle in his merry, blue eyes. On his lap sits a tiny, beautiful little Asian girl of about three years old, looking up lovingly into this face. She's undoubtedly a grandchild, or -- maybe -- a great-grandchild, and she clearly adores him.

I bet Edward was the life of the party, the mischief maker, the prankster. In any case, he was a happy, happy man, and greatly loved.

Edward graduated to the larger life on Sunday morning. I can almost see his smile from here.