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Thursday, December 12, 2013


Personal information obtained on therapy visits is confidential. When applicable the name/location/sex/condition of persons visited may be changed to protect privacy. However, the interactions, conversations are true and did occur as written. 

Gopher, Chad, and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.

Gopher and I have spent a large amount of time interacting with patients that are at the end of their lives. I personally enjoy working with hospice patients, and have a lot of fun doing it. This may sound surprising that one would say it is fun working with the the dying, but it is, the honesty, the joy they share and the clarity one can have at the end of their life is something to be experienced.

The Showtime series "The Big C" in its final season "The Big C: Hereafter" explained this experience beautifully via the Hospice nurse when Cathy asked her if it got to her working with all of these dying people and she responded with, "When people are close to death they open up like flowers, they teach me so much and that I can provide a little comfort it sure makes me feel good."

With all of our visits whether in hospice or otherwise I get so much out of it, I get to work with my dog and that is amazing. I have the unique opportunity to see the human-animal bond in its most splendid form, and I almost always learn something from our patients.

Recently I was able to learn first hand about forgiveness.

We had been visiting a patient for some time, in his life he had served America in an armed conflict. He was proud of his service, and had been a prisoner of war. In our visits he spoke about many things, his family, his marriage, his children. It was a visit when he was laying in bed and had Gopher cuddling when we spoke about his service.

He told me he had enlisted and was excited to serve his country. He was not on the front very long when he and a fellow soldier were cut off, captured and became prisoners.

He spoke to Gopher and I about the tremendous horrors he saw while he was held, how he witnessed his fellow soldier die as a result of his captors neglecting to administer medical care. He never said how long he was a prisoner of war, but the atrocities he described to us were nearly beyond comprehension. He witnessed suffering, torture and the deaths of fellow prisoners.

He himself had been beaten, would only be given mere scraps once a day. Conditions were deplorable and he wasn't sure how he survived a fever he experienced during his captivity.

He audibly sighed and kept stroking Gopher. He looked at me and said, "It was awful, and I hope if it was different and I was guarding them I would have done better, but I don't know if I would have I was young and they were the enemy. I hope I would have done better. If I had time to do one more thing I wish I could find the men who held me and tell them it was okay. I forgive them. It might not mean much, it might make a difference for them, but I do forgive them. I would also thank them, for each day since I have never taken my freedom for granted."

The sentiment was so sincere, and so powerful. It was a great lesson for me as well, and I only hope in my life I can be half as forgiving as he was, and I am so thankful that Gopher and I were able to provide him with a little comfort.

1 comment:

  1. Thank You for sharing this with us. I thank the gentleman for his service and I pray that he has a peaceful passing.