Hospice Volunteer Training Homework #1: Why a Volunteer?


First writing for hospice volunteer training. The prompt is:

Find a quiet moment this week and write about expectations of being a hospice volunteer and your participation in this training. Reflect upon the sequence of events, thoughts, and/or feelings that have led you to this point, and what you anticipate “down the road.”

This is my second time coming to this service. The first time I was a Direct Care Volunteer, sitting with clients who were dying. This time I hope to do grief support, at least to start. My schedule is often flexible due to the nature of my work, and I imagine doing one or two shifts a week. This is to be decided.

While some find it reprehensible (my wife included), my belief is that altruism is a myth, and that what really motivates humans is self-interest, and we grow and change and get juice from our lives by expanding our sphere of what we consider to be our “selves.” With that in mind, what draws me to hospice is that my life seems simpler and less confusing when it’s cast in the light of mortality. I’ve faced a lot of death in my life—mother and father, grandparents, very close friends of all ages, sudden losses and drawn out—and I’ve been scared by death, or maybe by the shortness of life, and so I’ve tried to avoid the fact of it, pretend it isn’t our destination. But I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that, while I’m still frightened, I also gain things from facing into it—to test my actions and beliefs against the universal inevitable puts them in perspective, makes things I put off more important and urgent, makes other things that seemed important kind of shallow. Also, death and grieving, and the consciousness of them, are human universals, and how exciting to share commonality with everybody on the planet.

I’ve been thinking about all this for a number of years now, and feeling how it gives me a sense of being more grounded and complete. Because of this and shifts in my family’s situation, I’m beginning the process of applying for training to be a hospice chaplain. I see my return to volunteering as part of my education as well as my practice.