Ask me how my day was
Updated: Jun 11
I think one of the most important qualities a person can have, is the ability to truly listen. Have you ever been with someone when you are telling them something that really matters to you, something that is important and valuable and they are on their phone or distracted by something else going on nearby? You know they didn’t hear a word you said and certainly don’t appreciate the value of the content. It could have been about something trivial like the last movie you just watched, but it could also be about a patient you sat with who touched your heart or tugged at your heartstrings.
Regardless of what it is that you have to say, when someone tunes you out, it is hurtful.
I have seen the look on faces as I start to talk about my work and what I do. I understand it is a difficult topic, I understand the fear that surrounds death and it is a taboo subject for many. But when you do this kind of work, when you are at the bedside of someone who takes their very last breath and you hug the loved one of someone who had to say goodbye, for us it isn’t about death, it is about life.
Working in Hospice on any level, places you in the life of someone who is about to die. This work is personal, it is powerful, it is beautiful and it is hard. And at the end of the day, we need to talk about it. Finding someone to talk to, that doesn’t do this kind of work, is not an easy task. I have learned that very rarely does anyone ask me how my day was, because they are afraid I am going to tell them. But I want to tell them, I want to share about the beautifully difficult day I had. I want to share the lessons I learned, or the way it felt to take away the pain or discomfort someone might have experienced. I want to talk about a death that while it could have been really hard, ended up being gentle and kind and I had something to do with their landing being soft. I want to talk about my day. And I really, really want someone to ask me how my day was.
I can’t tell you how many dinner tables I have sat at where the conversation went from discussions about food, to movies, to work place gossip and while I sat there listening and even participated, I realize that I didn’t have much to offer in the conversation that didn’t have something to do with death. I struggle with that, because I feel like maybe I have gotten so immersed in my work I have forgotten how to live a life that doesn’t have something to do with death. And while that is probably very close to my reality, my life is not completely wrapped around death. It’s way deeper than that. Working around death has opened my eyes to so much more than just death. I have been witness to religions of all kinds; to a faith so strong it kind of blows my mind. I find myself almost envious of people who have such a spiritual commitment. It has encouraged me to ask questions, to read, and to learn. My respect for prayer grows every day. I have also seen love, so much love. And compassion and kindness on levels you can’t begin to imagine. Every patient I care for, every family I support and every death I am present for reminds me constantly to embrace life. I see death, but I also see life and I find a deeper appreciation for it every single day.
If you know someone who works in Hospice, who is around death, who gives their whole heart to someone else at the most difficult time of their life, I can assure you that they would be very happy you asked about their day. To be present for us, to let us share our day with you, to truly listen to our words is one of the kindest most thoughtful things you could do for us.