But it is utterly without mockery and kookiness that I stop to recognize National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. OK, before you click away thinking "ugh, death, depressing", hear me out. Death holds special interest for me, but not in a morbid train-wreck-voyeur kind of way, but instead, as a place where we're called to rethink life and what it means to be human, compassionate, and present. I was raised by an oncology social worker, who for years supported people who faced death, many of whom lived to tell about it. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a household name. I daily heard stories of how instructive patients and their families were to my mother. I also heard of medical professionals' wildly varying capacities for caring for dying patients with compassion and justice. Mom's retired now and channeling her considerable energies into art, but she continues to embody the values of her profession.
There are some wonderful documentaries and resources that take on the task of demystifying this universal experience of all living things:
- The Hospice Experiement: a history of the American hospice movement from American Radio Works
- Transition rites from different faiths
- The End of Life: Exploring Death in America, from NPR