A Simple Pause
“So, what are your plans for next year?” This time last year, I had a speech prepared and memorized. Now, I panic a bit. Throughout this year, I’ve supplied plenty of different answers to Francis House staff and volunteers and even to my own parents. Coming into this year, I had a set plan that I had in place since I was 13.
This year was originally a pause in the middle of my way to becoming a doctor, and who knows, maybe I still might eventually apply to medical school. As soon as my first day serving at Francis House, I realized that while my entire heart belongs to making sure people feel loved and supported, it felt like I had flipped a switch internally. I realized my plan wouldn’t be carried out like I had intended. Then, the questions about my plans for next year had never been as nerve-wracking. For the first time in almost 10 years, I didn’t have a solid answer.
Spoiler alert: I still haven’t figured it all out. Working at a hospice will change you. Spending time with the terminally ill every day will change you and how you see the world. A hospice environment is not as incredibly depressing as you may think it would be, but there are very real moments of heartbreak woven into every workday for me. However, they were intermixed with moments of incredible joy as well.
Sally, the Director of Resident Care says that we’re “birthing our residents into the afterlife,” which I think is an apt description of the dying process. Death is an everyday thing, but it’s something that can be peaceful and beautiful. It’s an immediately grounding parallel, when I feel I have just started planning out my life while listening to residents reflect on the end of theirs. I’ve learned so much from spending what limited time I can with the residents and their families. Often, I would talk with a resident’s wife as I checked her in to visit. She and I would discuss book recommendations and debate whether a certain popular book was overrated or not. We also discussed how she felt that she had taken her time with planning life and getting married, and it was one of the best decisions she had made because she wouldn’t have ended up where she was today with the loving marriage she had. She encouraged me to take my time and to trust in God’s plan. She also left me with a long list of books she loved after her husband passed. I will always think of her, and I am so thankful for all of my Francis House experiences and encounters because who knows if, without them, I would have carried on, rushing down the wrong path for no reason.
I know from stories my coworkers at Francis House tell that this year was incredibly different when contrasted with any other year not smack-dab in the middle of a pandemic. I know that the experience was the one I needed. Pouring out your heart to a dying stranger, now as close to you as if they had been family. To be frustrated that I could not spend more time with residents because of COVID regulations. To be afraid that I wouldn’t be what a resident or family member needed in a time of grief. To be the happy face for my coworkers and visitors. To be the only one who knows how to use Zoom Conference Rooms. To exchange book recommendations with a long-term resident’s wife. To my supervisor helping me look for jobs and apartments. These were my experiences: uniquely mine. The question then became, “What do I want for myself? What does God have planned for me that I can’t see yet?”
So where am I going? Where am I being called? I have come to realize that this year was more than a simple pause; it was the beginning of figuring out what I actually want to do. I’m being called to live a happy life. Am I still panicking that I don’t have a solid plan? Absolutely. I am bursting with excitement and anxiety over the possibilities of what I can do. I’ll fill you in on the specifics when I find out for myself.
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