In October, I had the honour of speaking at the opening of the Sea to Sky Hospice Society's AGM. The topic was why, after all of my experiences in hospitals, blood labs, and chemo treatments, did I want to become a hospice volunteer? It seems counterintuitive to so badly want to escape these situations only to consciously choose to return to them. It is countercultural, for sure, to want to spend your time among the people and places that are reminders of our fragility, our vulnerability, and our absolute dependence on one another. If you want an accurate reflection of the human condition, you won't find it on the filters of social media. Instead, just spend an hour at a hospital. All of the very best and most terrifying of our experiences are laid bare there. It's a learning ground, and it keeps me close to the living edge of what is meaningful in life.
One of the things I shared at the AGM is that it was during my time with a serious illness that I began to understand that regardless of the trajectory of a diagnosis, we have the ability to heal one another.
During those years, when terror could have overtaken me, it was the simple, daily acts of kindness that saved me: Homemade food and cards. The nurse who whispered to me, Goodnight, bella. It was the many people who stood in as confidants and companions for my family members, who struggled with their own grief and the requirements of caregiving. It was these small deeds that helped me to cope, to survive, and ultimately, to form meaning from my experiences. I met others who weren't so fortunate, who were overtaken by sadness or bitterness or regret.
Becoming involved with hospice these last seven years (the same amount of time I had cancer!) gave me the opportunity to put into practice for others what helped me so much.
The amazing thing is that it isn't just hospice where this magic happens. Whatever you do, wherever you are, know that every small thing you do changes the landscape of another's life. We have the chance to heal one another. What a beautiful, astonishing thing.