Yesterday, I visited the Connecticut Hospice, founded in 1974 as the first hospice organization in the U.S., based on the idea of British physician Dame Cicely Saunders. Apparently, it's on the site of an old corporation, who left the land to the organization against community pressure to open up the prime coastal real estate in Branford. Apparently, that's all water under the pier so to speak now and it is a well-respected organization which provides hospice services all over the state.
It was such a beautiful, peaceful, well-cared for place that exuded an air of quiet calm, with trees enveloping one side of the building and the oceanfront looking towards the Thimble Islands on the other. It's a good place to die, I would think. And the inside is similarly beautiful and peaceful. I had an opportunity to watch some of the staff at work--they cared for a woman from my community that I've visited some, outside of my official hospice volunteer parameters (she's the sister of a local person.) They spoke to her with such kindness and gentleness and respect, caring for her fragile body so gently. There was no chaos, no noise, no loud televisions, no beeping alarms, no obviously disgruntled and over-worked staff, no dirt, no awful smells, no decaying infrastructure. The best facility I've ever been in, for sure.
I realized while I was there one of the reasons I love hospice: for me, it's a form of community service. Our communities today help new parents, support the education of children with schools and scouts and sports, have services for people in need (adult day care, soup kitchens, food pantries, etc), provide YMCAs and senior centers and libraries and hospitals . . . and then we practically abandon people at their most vulnerable, when they or someone they love is dying. For me, hospice is a community's way of taking care of their members at the end. It's one of the ways I can serve my community.
And I want to volunteer there. I believe I can handle the drive and I'd like to learn more about hospice from them, be a part of what they've created. I met the volunteer coordinator and will give her a call soon, though summertime is the worst time for me to try to start something new, because the kids are home. But I think this would definitely be worth it. I haven't given up on chaplaincy. I'm just not ready to go back to school yet, for the kids or for me. So, I'd like to immerse myself in residential hospice work, maybe then pursue some chaplaincy training at a local hospital and then go get my MDiv. And I think I really could help and learn at Connecticut Hospice.