End-of-life Doula

I have been an end-of-life doula with Valley Hospice since June of this now receding year. Each family, each patient, has different needs, different ways of managing this final transition. I have been privileged to be with 5 or 6 patients now, and have been present at 3 deaths. It is mindfulness practice to be sure, to stay awake and present to subtle changes and sometimes unspoken needs. Joan invited me to share one of the experiences I had… I was there in the middle of the night on Saturday when EM was stable. But I got to witness the tenderness, love and care of this family. I woke her son twice per his request so he could administer medication. He was very tender with her. J, her daughter, was asleep in the room so I sat quite still as she awoke to any stirring. She woke on her own at about three and sat up for the next hour, holding her mother’s hand, asking questions and telling me stories—a little impromptu legacy work perhaps. The second time I woke the son, a little before 4:00 and shift change, L, the father had also awoken and come back in the room. When CM, the next doula arrived, the family was all at the bedside. I said to CM, “There’s a little party going on in there.” I guess it sort of felt like that, because, though they may have been sad, what I saw was their love and care for EM and each other. What a lovely family. I am honored to have been part of this vigil and to be part this program.

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