Author: Jessica Hadari
Today’s hospice shift was a breath of fresh air.
My morning started out with a lot of swearing under my breath. I was running late again! I was able to slow down on the BART trains.
I arrived early enough to get my americano at the corner cafe. Preparing for an upcoming women’s Tahoe writing retreat, I was glad to catch all of the email communications at the start of the day.
I headed to the Guest House – which already felt like a home.
Checking in with the other volunteers, I found out that Anthony, who had moved into the House after my shift last week, had passed. Roy had sent out an introduction email to us volunteers a few days before when Anthony arrived. This is all I know of this man…
“Anthony has lived a full life as an artist, musician and actor. Raised in New York City, Anthony had lived on the Lower East side and in Queens. Anthony played guitar in a rock band in the 1960s called Children of God. He was involved in the Living Theatre in New York and Bread and Puppets. A friend who stopped by today described Anthony as living his life on the extreme edge.”
I never met him but enjoyed tending to his candles all morning until his family arrived. Fire guardian, I changed out his candles twice; cleaning about twenty of the Gust House candle holders until they were spotless. Wiping, wiping, wiping. Delighting in sooty-to-shine transformation and the plushy kitchen towels that sucked every bit of wax away.
The art of the mundane. This was my work in that moment.
It was not strange. Floating in and out of his room. His body sinking into his bed. His hollowed face. Tending this stranger. A temporary surrogate family. I thought it intriguing, this felt ‘normal’. I thought I heard him take a deep breath. I remembered that last week during Sharon’s ritual I swore I saw her breathe several times.
Having seen people breathe my whole life, my mind would not allow me to see a body not breathe.
I found out the thirty year old man in one of the rooms was close to passing. His friends created a sitting tree, so that at least one person was with him at all times as he neared the end. He was so cared for. I am not sure why his name is the only one I have not written here.
I dedicated a lot of time to Ben today. Elderly. He had fallen a few days ago. He would awake and try to get out of bed by himself. To prevent another fall, one of us would stay with him at all times. I assigned myself to watching him while he napped. Old jazzy tunes like “Luck Be a Lady” played on his boom box. I had the delicious experience of sitting on the armchair and really hearing the lyrics for the first time. Sitting. Imagining what Ben’s hay days might have been like. Occasionally snoozing to the classic tunes of the era of his young adulthood.
Sitting. Snoozing. Daydreaming. This was my work in that moment. And this is how I was needed.
When he awoke Liz, the nurse practitioner and I helped Ben with the commode. I held him standing while Liz bathed him. His nearly naked body, still painful from his fall.
I felt the depth of my service and the swallowing throat of intimacy – true intimacy of illness and mental nakedness – as this grown man, small with age wrapped his arms around my neck for support. I was grateful for my strong legs. I could have held him for a long time.
I did not say goodbye to Ben when I left my shift. Later in the evening at the hospice training I would explore why.
Jessica Hadari is the founder of the Miracle Salon and the FEM Talks Alliance of Women Leaders, Educators & Healers.
Passionate about the "self-blossoming woman", for 15 years she has been privileged to lead countless women’s circles. Her greatest love? Watching women transform in the arenas of relationships, divine path and spiritual growth.
Each month she produces the Miracle Salon, a celebrated woman's wisdom networking event, as well as Women's Wisdom & Prayer Circles. Jessica immensely enjoys producing and collaborating around any women's event centered on emotional freedom.
She's a mother, writer, artist, hospice caregiver, master yoga teacher, holistic health practitioner, officiant, unconditional friend and voice of accountability in her Bay Area women’s communities.