Each Tuesday at hospice, the care team gathers around the conference table: nurses, social worker, community liaison, counsellor, physicians, physiotherapist, and myself, as spiritual care worker. Before we review the most complex patient charts, I ring a bell to call us to silence. Someone then reads the names of the people who have died on our floor during the previous week. May their passing be a blessing. May they rest in peace. May their families and friends be happy.
Then, after a moment’s silence and again the bell, I say a poem or a blessing. Today I briefly recalled a patient who’d been so busy arranging for the welfare of every family member; we could see him jotting down just one more thing to get done “before it’s too late.” Dad’s always been one to help others, his daughter told to me. Now he was lying in bed, unable to get up without assistance, his energy declining as the disease continued to spread.
As hours, days, and nights rolled by, things began to soften and dad allowed himself to be cared for. The family began to relax: there was hugging and weeping and laughing, with dad at the centre, still holding court.
It seemed fitting to say these lines by the Chinese poet Li Po (701-762):
The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.