I think we are all afraid of dying. So am I. We are even more of becoming weak and helpless in the very last stages of life, that there will be no one to give us care.
What is the smartest thing to do when you are afraid? That's right! You face it - this is the best way of action in such cases. And you can even turn your fear into something very positive, namely by going to those people already in this so dreaded phase of life. To people who have reached the end of their lives, who are sick, in need of help, and lonely.
In the Bucher Boten, the local newspaper of our Pankow district, I read about the volunteering opportunity for this task. So, one day I sat with seven other women in a preparatory seminar of the outpatient hospice & palliative service V.I.S.I.T.E. of the Humanist Association Berlin-Brandenburg. I learned everything one should know and do if one wants to bring some variety, joy, and attention to people at the end of their lives and help alleviate any physical discomfort.
Our course was to last nine months, and once a week for three hours in the evening, we were thoroughly trained by competent instructors on changing topics for this demanding honorary office. In the meantime, I have been involved for more than three years, and I admit that this task is not just about giving. I often take something with me from my visits to people who do not have long to live. Be it the dignity with which they bear the fate of their incurable disease and the approaching of death. Be it memories that I can share with them, a good conversation, and maybe even a life lesson. Sometimes I hold a hand to be there; The other time, I can read something aloud that opens up another world for a while or brings back a memory, bringing distraction.
„I sang an old folk song to an aged gentleman, and suddenly he, who seemed to understand little, sang along in a clear and shaky voice. He remembered every word, every verse, and could even tell me that he used to sing in the men's choral society.“
Or the wise 93-year-old with whom I could always discuss world affairs, who told me all about his difficult life, and who once told me when we parted that he was always excited when I was there. One must know: This gentleman had not been able to communicate with anyone for a long time before my visit as his wife was long dead and he no longer had a family.
It is especially nice when I can take someone for a walk in the fresh air - in a wheelchair, on a walker, or my arm, it is then possible to enjoy nature, to soak up the sun. I was even able to take one of my protégés to her beloved church a few times. In tht way, I can always bring back a little memory with my visits, and conjure up a little smile on the face of my counterpart. Even if it is not much, it is as if the sun shines through a tiny crack in the clouds. And man is happy about that, too, even if the sky turns gray again afterward. The hope remains for the next time that the sky will tear open a little bit again.