We live in community but I didn’t really understand this until I heard Kelley Scott, Executive Director for Clarehouse in Tulsa, OK, speak of dying in community. She was sharing the concept of a Community Home for the Dying. Hearing those simple, yet powerful words it became clear. We live in community. We die in community.
Living in community happens in the everyday of our lives. In the grocery store, clearing space so another can put her overloaded armful of groceries on the counter. Taking that moment to pause and listen to the cashier’s story about her granddaughter’s ballet recital the night before. Wheeling the grocery cart back inside and stopping instead to give it to an elder unsteady on his feet, who smiles and regains his balance.
After a house fire, showing up the next day in the rain to clear out debris not completely burned and finding a precious family photo that gets tucked away safely to return to family, boiling noodles for the fundraiser spaghetti feed, helping a child hand-paint a “come-to-the-dinner” sign. Attending the 3rd baby shower in a month, the 5th high school graduation party of the afternoon, or a Pampered Chef party for your best friend’s daughter, even when you don’t cook.
And what about Facebook as community? Often considered impersonal, until seeing the spontaneous postings of babies’ first steps, newly engaged beaming young couples, retirements beginning, vacations ending, moves across the country underway, little league team championships and defeats, proms, vacations, and beautiful sunsets. The posting of the death of one dear to us. But not so much their dying, rather its their living we share. What they meant to us and how they touched and shaped us. How we are adrift now without them and our sense of belonging shaken. These poignant moments of our lives, all shared in community.
So what is community? It’s the connection of our innermost beings. It’s being there no matter, always belonging. Belonging to the greater human experience of love and loss; the steady strand woven into the tapestry of our lives. Living in community is part of our everyday lives.
Dying in community calls forth the most essential elements of our being. It’s truly companioning others on the journey – the individual and their family. A welcoming place that breathes in the sounds of daily life: opens to laughter and tears, sorrow and silence. Honoring the mystery of death, not in a hushed voice out of uncertainty but out of reverence for the soul, truly welcoming us home in the purest sense. A supportive and caring environment that acknowledges the flood of emotions of letting go. That place to reach out in the security of others who’ve walked ahead of us with others on the journey.
A community home for the dying where care is provided by understanding staff and compassionate volunteers who are guided by the individual, and become an extension of the family. It’s a sheltered place of belonging with loving 24-hour support and assistance with daily needs, comfort and connection.
Friends of Hospice is starting a community home for the dying project on The Palouse. Homes for the dying have been around for more than 20 years and are rooted in the origins of hospice – serving the dying through a community network of care. These homes are run by not-for-profit community-based collaborative organizations that partner with existing local resources to offer end-of-life services otherwise not available. It’s hard to say goodbye to someone we love, while at the same time a gift to have the chance to say goodbye. We want to honor and respect the unique needs of both the individual and the family by offering a home that specifically serves those at end-of-life.