Yesterday I drove down South to an office near the Dayton Mall, and had my first training session to become a Vigil Volunteer with the hospice that The Girl Next Door works for. A Vigil Volunteer is someone who comes to sit with people who are actively dying, to keep them company in their last hours or moments. There are some people in hospice care who just don’t have anyone to be with them, or whose family is far away and cannot come. When situations like that arise, I’d be called in by the volunteer coordinator, and would go to wherever the person is, and sit with them as long as I can, or until they don’t need me anymore, whichever comes first. I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and have mentioned it a couple of times. It took me a long time from when I first heard about it to make the call to the volunteer coordinator, and then by the time the coordinator was able to put together a training that my schedule would permit me to attend, I was in the midst of my sudden accumulation of jobs. A little while ago the coordinator contacted me again about another training, and this time I could come. I’ll go again for another training session next weekend, then do a one on one with the volunteer coordinator, and do some training online, and then I’ll be on the list to call for when they need me.
This volunteer position of Vigil Volunteer is one that’s relatively new for this hospice. From something the coordinator said, I think there’s only one or two others in the organization. They have lots of volunteers who go to visit sick patients, help the family out with housework or small handyman projects, help out at the office, and lots of other things. But in our death-phobic society, I guess it takes a different kind of person to be willing to be in the presence of someone who’s dying.
Personally, I think it’s very natural thing. Until the advent of depersonalized modern medicine, life and death were part of everyday life. You didn’t go away to some specialized building to give birth or die, you stayed in your home, and were cared for by your family. Well, actually you were mostly cared for by the women of your family, and of your community. Birth and death – the major mysteries of human life – have always belonged to women. It was a female midwife who smacked the baby on the bottom to make it take that first breath, and it was another woman who sat by the bedside and watched the dying person take his or her last breath.
Depending on the community, it was often the same woman who did both. I kinda love Terry Pratchett because (among many, many other sterling qualities, including his amazing sense of humor) he gets this. In his world it is the Witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Miss Tick, and their trainee Tiffany Aching, who take on this responsibility for their communities (along with all the other things that come between). It is not a small perk that, by taking on this job, I will have something in common with Granny Weatherwax. 😀 Now we just have to see whether people start offering me baked goods, and bundles of slightly-used-but-still-good clothing on my way out the door…
In other news, Rosie is recovering nicely from her back injury. On Friday she finally was able to stand up long enough to get out to the car to make it to the chiropractor. He did her a world of good, and now she can do things like sit up, walk around, go up and down stairs, and all kinds of things! It’s pretty awesome.
Also, if you have’t filled out my survey on the kinds of blog posts you’d like to see in the future, please do so! I’ve been delighted to get such a big response to it, and it’s been fun seeing what you guys enjoy. For instance, so far not a single person has selected Posts With Videos, which surprised me. I’m going to be closing the poll next Friday, so you have until then to get your vote in!