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Hospice caregivers can give the gift of giving

Helping hospice patients to give is a gift

By Ron King

As caregivers, we often focus on the care and gifts we are able to give.  Giving to a loved one during the last weeks and months of their life is a special privilege.  Preparing the last meal, offering the last drink of water and changing sheets for the last time fills the need we all have to feel useful, to make a difference.  It’s important to be able to offer a gift when we feel helpless against a disease that appears to be greater than our sincere prayers and the doctor’s strongest medicine.

If we find joy in giving when it seems there is so little we can do, how much more important is it for those who are dying to be able to give?  Giving when there is so little left to give still brings satisfaction.  It can be a source of peace and contentment, the evidence of a life ending well.

In this holiday season of giving, perhaps we are able to help hospice patients give when they lack the energy and physical strength to give without our help.  If giving comes from the heart, then we are able to know the joy of giving even with our last breath.  But we may at times need help in being able to give. Helping someone to give their last gift may be the most rewarding thing we can do.

My father died on December 18 several years ago.  He lived in Williamsburg, KY, a small rural college town.  Before he died, he had invited four Ethiopian students to have Christmas dinner with our family in his home since they would be the only students at school not going home for winter break.  When my father died, the students understood that our family would be unable to host them so soon after my father’s funeral.  But we decided as a family to fulfill my father’s final wishes.  It was a gift from his heart that we completed.

The hospitality we were able to offer in his name was a great joy to us.  We learned of Coptic traditions related to Christmas and funerals.  We received the gratitude of students far from home.  We knew the joy of bringing Dad’s desire into reality.

If your loved one has a desire to give, make it possible.  Encourage a spirit of generosity.  Is there a donation designated in the will that might be given now, in honor of your loved one rather than in memory of her or him?  Are there items around the house that might be given to family members along with a word of blessing or best wishes?  Is someone in special need that your loved one might wish to help while they are able?

Being near the end of life brings a different value to the things we own.  The attachment to possessions is not so strong.  We are able to see greater potential in what we have accumulated over the years.  Final gifts can be the most important because they carry our last wishes.  It can be a tangible way to say thank you.  The one who gives is able to have the joy of giving and see the benefit of his or her gift.

In all our giving and receiving this year, give the gift of giving.

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