Life and Death

Why this topic? In the past five years, I do volunteering work on Sunday mornings in the palliative ward of a hospital. Families and friends sometimes ask me why amongst all sorts of volunteer work varieties, why do I choose palliative? Doesn’t it feel depressing sometimes? Doesn’t it drag you down emotionally?

My reply is always the same, the work and the environment itself reminds me of the path we all inch forward day by day. It keeps me on the straight and narrow. It teaches me humility, it shows me human feeling at its rawest form. Some subtle, some emotional, some with quiet gracefulness, yet, all feelings and emotions come with brutal honesty.

Patients have different temperaments, some gently accept their fate, some with a degree of resignation, some are withdrawn, some have been heavily medicated during the course of the day, yet, during moments of clarity in between pain management time, the majority of them express the desire to communicate, to have human contact, some like to be touched by the hand, like having a hand massage, some like a feet massage, we all know that time is limited, we will savoy every moment while we are still alive and on this planet earth! Hence human contacts are treasured.

There are many facets of life and death, three hours of working on the ward often fly by in a flash. Sometimes we would lose a patient during this period, families would gather around, eyes filled with tears, faces with grief, and unspeakable pain. Sometimes, and thankfully not often, we would lose more than one patient, I can feel the heaviness of the air. Staff would hunker down and keep on going, but the atmosphere got quieter. I wish I were not there at those moments.

It is a different lesson for me to learn and follow every Sunday, I know I am fortunate enough that I am still alive, well, and have something to be thankful about in Life! And Death I am not afraid.

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