My brother, Father Gerhard, gets a call on the telephone.
“Do you want to come with me?” he asks. “I’ve been called to a deathbed.”
I don’t hesitate and follow my brother. I don’t know exactly what is to come and emotion gathers around my heart. We enter one of the four rooms for the dying at Blessed Gérard’s Hospice. A volunteer caregiver sits beside the bed of a young man and holds his hand. My brother strokes the young man on his head, gives him the salve for the sick and prays a little more. I feel complete peace in the room, unbelievable peace.
Inside myself, I have become completely calm. They prayers finish. The dying man barely moves. Occasionally an eye reflex twitches, a partial breath is drawn in. I can hear the ticking of the clock on the wall and it becomes even louder in that spot inside myself. So many things start to run through my head. Who is this man? What has he been through? How has he lived?
Important events from my own life come to mind too: the deaths of my parents, the births of my children. Life and death run together in the blink of an eye. Above the bed is a sign with the patient’s name. His name is Christopher. His therapy regime: Palliative Loving Care. I don’t know how long we have been in the room. My brother motions for me to come. The caregiver smiles at us as we depart and turns her gaze back toward the dying. On the way out, Gerhard turns to me and says, “he is still with us“ and explains to me the process of dying.
“Do you know,” he says, “this is a hospice. People come here so they won’t die alone. Critically ill people often lie in their huts alone and die a cruel death. Here, we wash them. When it’s possible, we bathe them. They get medicine and loving care. Some of them get to sleep in a clean bed for the first time in their lives. I always say that for the dying, the greatest culture shock of their lives is love.”
As we sit in the hospice, in a place between life and death, I understand exactly what he means.
Each of the sick rooms and dying rooms in the Blessed Gérard’s Hospice are named after a Saint or Blessed of the Order of Malta that was founded by Blessed Gérard in Jerusalem during the Crusades. A painting of their work hangs at the end of the hallway in the hospice. My brother took the name Gérard as his religious name when he entered the order of the Missionary Benedictines of St. Ottilien in 1982.
Dying People Need Professional Care Too
“Patients aren’t made to feel ashamed when they need help or time. When the patients need an hour, or even longer, just to talk, they get it. Even if they only need a hand to hold.“
There are many volunteer caregivers who make this level of loving care possible.
The hospice is divided into three wards of twelve beds. Each is under the supervision of a professional nurse. Each of the beds can be separated off with a privacy curtain for examinations and personal care of the patients.
The area is large, bright and very well ventilated. Each of the beds can also be pushed out onto the terrace so that the patients with tuberculosis can get the fresh and sunshine they need to recover. They also have physical therapy in small groups to help their muscles recover and laugh therapy to exercise both their lungs and their hearts.
Another room is equipped for mothers with children. Right now it is occupied by four young men because there are no women with children in the hospice at the moment.
All the voices in the sickroom are friendly and each of the patients get individual attention and care.
When a patient has more than three visitors, they are moved in a wheelchair or in their bed to a large visitors’ room that also serves as a patient lounge.
In the background many hands work together to keep the hospice running whether that is on the cleaning staff, in the kitchen or in the laundry room.
This page is part of the Newsletter No. 29 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard
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This page was last updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:50:18