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how do we go on doing this?

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patient in bedIt’s only natural to expect something in return for our labours, some observable evidence that we did a good job, that we made a difference, and that–somehow–the world is a better place because of it all. Fewer and fewer jobs offer such rewards. On the surface, hospice work is like that. People who come into our care don’t, as a rule, get up and leave one day, relieved of their pain and healed, ready to resume their lives. Granted, a few do leave– to be cared for either at home (if there’s a support system in place) or in an institutional care facility. But most come to us to die. So what is it that keeps you going, you may ask, what makes you jump out of bed each morning in anticipation of another day at work? [For a reply see my post of Wednesday, August 5.]  

Each day those who work at hospice do their utmost to be of service, knowing full well that the outcome will not be the restoration of health but the end of life. Individually and collectively we share the burden of such prospects; ooccasionally one of us can’t bear the weight. We weep, we hold each other, we laugh, we share stories, we do our best to take care of ourselves when we leave work. All along, we draw on our professional training, our commitment to be of service, and a deep longing to free others of fear and suffering.

shantidevaShantideva, a 7th Century Indian Buddhist scholar, gave us a collection of quatrains which spell out the intentions of someone who desires to serve others.

For all those ailing in the world
Until their sickness has been healed,
May I myself become for them
The doctor, nurse, the medicine itself.
. . .
May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road.
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

source: Shantideva. (1997). The way of the Bodhisattva. (Translated from the Tibetan). Boston: Shambala Publications, pp. 50-51.

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