Redefining Hope

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

HOPE CompassHere at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, we come up against a lot of myths.  There are some real doozies out there.  One we hear often is, “Hospice means giving up hope.”  That is a completely understandable myth/misconception because hospice care is directly related to terminal illnesses.  But making a decision for hospice care does not mean you are giving up hope.  Hospice redefines hope and helps patients and their families reclaim the spirit of life.  Hospice care focuses on improving the patient’s quality of life, allowing them to make the most of the time they have remaining.

Hospice helps patients and families find new hope and meaning in their lives as care goals turn from cure to comfort.  Hope, therefore, is discovered in the journey.  It might be redefining your expectations day by day or even moment by moment.  Hope, for a moment, may be seeing a smile, sharing a hug, or hearing “I love you” one last time.

I recently happened upon an article written in the New York Times in 2009 entitled, “Talking Frankly at the End of Life.”  In this article, Dr. Pauline Chen discusses her personal journey through her mother-in-law’s terminal illness.  Throughout this journey, Dr. Chen explored how better end-of-life care doesn’t dash hope but restores it by ensuring the best possible quality of life for the patient.  The article mentions a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined how end-of-life care discussions with terminal patients affected their quality of life and that of their caregivers.  Chen spoke with Dr. Alexi Wright, a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and one of the lead authors of the article, regarding interviews conducted with terminal patients and their caregivers.  Chen stated,

I asked Dr. Wright if telling patients that they were dying might take away hope. “In trying to emphasize only the positive, we can end up with a misguided sense of hope,” Dr. Wright responded. “I think it’s really important to define hope more broadly. Hope is in the life we live, in our families. When I meet patients with incurable cancer, I hope they live as long as they can and with the best quality of life they can have…”

For many terminally ill patients, hope can take on a new meaning, a renewed sense of appreciation of life and its simple pleasures. As hospice patients learn to live with dying, they are given the opportunity to become more fully alive in the present moment – their hope is redefined.  The time the patients and family/caregivers have remaining can be filled with deep love, grace, and a newfound definition of hope.

Tempest Tossed

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

Recently, I ran upon an a-l-m-o-s-t insurmountable obstacle in my path.  I say almost, because when I thought all hope was lost, when I thought it was impossible and I would never find my way through – God showed up, BIG!  Someday I will have the time to sit down and write my entire testimony of how God orchestrated my life in phenomenal ways.  But for today, I want to talk about the lyrics of a song that were dropped into my spirit. “When upon life billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost.  Count your many blessings every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.”

Do you recognize these words from an old familiar hymn?  Yes, they are indeed from the song, “Count Your Blessings” penned by Johnson Oatman, Jr.  The words to this hymn began to flow from my heart as I realized exactly what God had done for me.  Even though everything in my life did not work out according to my plan, and my timeline, it worked out according to His in order that He would be glorified.  And trust me, I give Him all honor, glory and praise for the miracle He performed on my obstacle – which, by the way, was not even as large as a grain of sand to Him.

And, if you have read very many of my blog posts, you know how events that happen in my own life often cause me to turn my thoughts to the patients and families we serve.  So, as I looked at the remaining lyrics for this old hymn, what I found was a story of pain, conflict, and confusion that turned into a song of praise and thanksgiving to our Lord.

In the last verse of the song, Oatman penned these words, “So amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all; count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”  THAT!  That is the part that struck me, in the very core of my heart for our patients and their loved ones.  I believe there are angels that attend to our care.  I believe they comfort us to our journey’s end.  And sometimes, our patients and their caregivers even refer to our staff as “angels on earth.”  WOW!  What a compliment.  We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of God.  We have the opportunity to serve patients in their most intimate moments – often even in their last breath.  In that, I find great comfort because I know our heart is one of service.  What a privilege and honor it is to be entrusted with the care of those who are precious and beloved – to care for someone else’s blessing, which in turn becomes a blessing for us.