I have an interesting job that requires a lot of explanation. When I say I work for "Arbor Hospice," I often hear, "Are you a nurse?" No, I say. "What about a social worker?" No again. I don't bother giving my title; I get a lot of blank stares when I say "Communications Specialist." Saying I'm part of the marketing team doesn't sound right either.
When I talk about my job, I say that I tell stories. I have many responsibilities and do many things, but telling stories is one of them - and it so happens that it's one of my favorites.
I have the privilege of interviewing patients and/or family members about their lives and the care they receive from Arbor Hospice. I have spoken to men, women, children, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, neighbors, friends and caregivers. I have heard about a man's World War II experience, a woman's heartbreak when her husband of 58 years was diagnosed with cancer, a daughter who forced her mother to move in with her, the smiles our music therapist and therapy dog bring, a parent's worst fear confirmed and the solace found in grief support, among many others. Each person has an amazing story, perspective and outlook that I can only hope to have when I or a loved one is facing the end of life.
It's not always easy. And, if I'm being honest, I cried the whole way home after the first interview I had with a patient and family (the ride home was well over an hour). When my boss asked the next day, "How'd it go," I think I said "great" and left out the part about my tears.
So why do I do it (besides the fact that it's part of my job)? I've learned so much from my interactions with these individuals and it's such an incredible honor to hear their stories. They chose to let us enter their memories at such a sacred time, and they're willing to share their hardships, pain, wisdom and joy. How magical is that?
And, it's pushed me to see outside my narrow view. I've begun thinking about my own story - and what I hope that will be. It's still being written, but at least I know what's on the first page. For me, it's my family. I wouldn't be the person I am without them, and I wouldn't continue striving for excellence.
What about you - how do you want your story to begin?
This blog post was written by Jaclyn Klein, Communications Specialist at Arbor Hospice. You can reach Jaclyn by commenting below or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.