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When Evening Comes: The Education of a Hospice Volunteer

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When Christine Andreae signed up for twenty-seven hours of patient-care training with the Blue Ridge Hospice in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, her parents were still living and her grandparents' funerals hadn't involved a viewing. Her only direct experience with death had been when, at the age of six, she had gone with her father to the viewing for the family's parish pries When Christine Andreae signed up for twenty-seven hours of patient-care training with the Blue Ridge Hospice in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, her parents were still living and her grandparents' funerals hadn't involved a viewing. Her only direct experience with death had been when, at the age of six, she had gone with her father to the viewing for the family's parish priest. At a training session, the leader passed around a tray of small objects and asked participants to choose one that represented what they felt they could give to a dying person. Christine randomly took an old-fashioned key, for no reason that she knew. And when it was her turn to speak, "feeling like a liar" she stammered something about "opening doors to people." Looking back, she says, "Perhaps what I wanted was to open a door for myself." In its directness and honesty, this beautiful book about accompanying the dying is far from saddening-instead it is truly inspirational in the best sense. Starting with Bivie, her first patient, then going to the very different Amber, and to several others whose need for care was more short-term, the author began to see terminal illness not as some dreaded "thing" hovering in the distance, but as an "everyday" reality. She learned that because the dying continue to live until that final day comes, daily activities continue, tapering off gradually. The mothers among her patients wanted to care for children and households, to manage their affairs, or to pursue other interests-one, for instance, wrote (very bad) poetry. They wanted to continue doing the things they did before their lives were interrupted by illness (in most of Christine's cases, cancer). Contrary to the ideas so many of us have about our behavior in the face of terminal illness, the dying do not welcome people tiptoeing around their illness and offering solemn sympathy. They want things to be as much like they had been as possible. And they need someone to be there, to talk to, to listen to, to gossip with, and sometimes, of course, to complain to. When her first patient, Bivie, died, Andreae wrote: How presumptuous I was at the outset, thinking that I could somehow "help" Bivie die! Ultimately, the process of dying-like the process of living-is a unique and solitary task for each of us. No one can "get it right" for us. On the other hand, we can bear witness to each i0other's passages. At birth and death, we can hear each other, love each other, learn from each other. And there is the most profound help in that-for everyone present.


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When Christine Andreae signed up for twenty-seven hours of patient-care training with the Blue Ridge Hospice in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, her parents were still living and her grandparents' funerals hadn't involved a viewing. Her only direct experience with death had been when, at the age of six, she had gone with her father to the viewing for the family's parish pries When Christine Andreae signed up for twenty-seven hours of patient-care training with the Blue Ridge Hospice in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, her parents were still living and her grandparents' funerals hadn't involved a viewing. Her only direct experience with death had been when, at the age of six, she had gone with her father to the viewing for the family's parish priest. At a training session, the leader passed around a tray of small objects and asked participants to choose one that represented what they felt they could give to a dying person. Christine randomly took an old-fashioned key, for no reason that she knew. And when it was her turn to speak, "feeling like a liar" she stammered something about "opening doors to people." Looking back, she says, "Perhaps what I wanted was to open a door for myself." In its directness and honesty, this beautiful book about accompanying the dying is far from saddening-instead it is truly inspirational in the best sense. Starting with Bivie, her first patient, then going to the very different Amber, and to several others whose need for care was more short-term, the author began to see terminal illness not as some dreaded "thing" hovering in the distance, but as an "everyday" reality. She learned that because the dying continue to live until that final day comes, daily activities continue, tapering off gradually. The mothers among her patients wanted to care for children and households, to manage their affairs, or to pursue other interests-one, for instance, wrote (very bad) poetry. They wanted to continue doing the things they did before their lives were interrupted by illness (in most of Christine's cases, cancer). Contrary to the ideas so many of us have about our behavior in the face of terminal illness, the dying do not welcome people tiptoeing around their illness and offering solemn sympathy. They want things to be as much like they had been as possible. And they need someone to be there, to talk to, to listen to, to gossip with, and sometimes, of course, to complain to. When her first patient, Bivie, died, Andreae wrote: How presumptuous I was at the outset, thinking that I could somehow "help" Bivie die! Ultimately, the process of dying-like the process of living-is a unique and solitary task for each of us. No one can "get it right" for us. On the other hand, we can bear witness to each i0other's passages. At birth and death, we can hear each other, love each other, learn from each other. And there is the most profound help in that-for everyone present.

30 review for When Evening Comes: The Education of a Hospice Volunteer

  1. 4 out of 5

    John Kaufmann

    I was looking for advice, lessons learned. That's not what this book focused on. It was more about the range of people the author cared for - or rather, how varied and different they are, not only from each other, but from herself. You can't go into hospice with expectations, and you can't be shocked when you learn people have different lifestyles than you. And not every case/client/death/bereavement will be deep and meaningful. Sometimes you're there only to assist with some of the mundane thin I was looking for advice, lessons learned. That's not what this book focused on. It was more about the range of people the author cared for - or rather, how varied and different they are, not only from each other, but from herself. You can't go into hospice with expectations, and you can't be shocked when you learn people have different lifestyles than you. And not every case/client/death/bereavement will be deep and meaningful. Sometimes you're there only to assist with some of the mundane things, sometimes the people don't open up, etc. I suppose those are lessons learned, but they were learned through the stories the author told.

  2. 5 out of 5

    RĂ© Cockrell

    This book raised some interesting questions for me about boundaries. Andreae's insights into her experiences as a hospice volunteer are fascinating. However, I sometimes found myself judging her involvement as being more about herself than her patients. Of course, she openly explores this side of her experiences, and she explores many possible explanations for why she volunteers for hospice. Overall, her language had moments of glimmering beauty, and she presented a fascinating array of experien This book raised some interesting questions for me about boundaries. Andreae's insights into her experiences as a hospice volunteer are fascinating. However, I sometimes found myself judging her involvement as being more about herself than her patients. Of course, she openly explores this side of her experiences, and she explores many possible explanations for why she volunteers for hospice. Overall, her language had moments of glimmering beauty, and she presented a fascinating array of experiences. When it comes to being judgmental, I think I was likely just responding to my own intimations about how to deal with situations and interact with people. Though I'm sure the emotional reflection comes with the territory, I sometimes felt like Andreae's self-describe "obsession" with certain patients crossed beyond the boundaries of a healthy, supportive relationship and into the realm of co-dependency. It made me a little uncomfortable. It's definitely a thought-provoking book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Liz M

    It's not exciting writing, but it shows the kind of life that a hospice volunteer and her patients often go through. It's a sad revelation, as it seems that there's so much loneliness out there by those going through life's passage. It's not exciting writing, but it shows the kind of life that a hospice volunteer and her patients often go through. It's a sad revelation, as it seems that there's so much loneliness out there by those going through life's passage.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shawanda

    Very interesting, it is both giving me a feeling of future yet reachable in the present.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mozelle

    The main characters were likeable and seamed very human. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good %v_array_gen[2]% novel.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lambert

    A brilliant piece of work.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Esme

    I found myself frustrated with this book, at this woman's tone and air, especially when it came to her time spent with Amber. It doesn't seem like the group appreciates Amber's limitations and her poverty. At one point Christine makes issue with being asked to pick up Amber's medicine and getting paid back later, and she says she's been stiffed before. (The medicine cost $6.) She also notes that Amber's dryer is broken. My instinct here would have been to make arrangements to get the dryer fixed I found myself frustrated with this book, at this woman's tone and air, especially when it came to her time spent with Amber. It doesn't seem like the group appreciates Amber's limitations and her poverty. At one point Christine makes issue with being asked to pick up Amber's medicine and getting paid back later, and she says she's been stiffed before. (The medicine cost $6.) She also notes that Amber's dryer is broken. My instinct here would have been to make arrangements to get the dryer fixed to make Amber's life a little bit easier. She also seems to look down on Amber for her soap opera watching. And the poetry she writes is terrible too apparently, but it is hers. What misery I thought, putting myself in Amber's place, to be dying and have to deal with these self-righteous people all with their own agendas. Either to make themselves feel better via their service or trying to convert a person on their death bed. I understand that the "education of a hospice volunteer" is part awkwardness, making mistakes, and not knowing the right thing to say or do in a very difficult situation. That came through as well. But in the end, I came away with the sense that I'd rather die alone than have these people at my bedside.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Westcoast_girl

    'When Evening Comes' is a good story but a bad book. Composed mostly of Andreae's journal entries, the book is a very personal account of Andreae's time volunteering with two particular women through hospice. The problem with such a personal account is that diaries tend not to be ready made publishable material. Andreae's own thoughts and feelings do create an intimate record of what it is like to be a hospice volunteer, but they also leave out a lot of the rest of the story. They also, at times 'When Evening Comes' is a good story but a bad book. Composed mostly of Andreae's journal entries, the book is a very personal account of Andreae's time volunteering with two particular women through hospice. The problem with such a personal account is that diaries tend not to be ready made publishable material. Andreae's own thoughts and feelings do create an intimate record of what it is like to be a hospice volunteer, but they also leave out a lot of the rest of the story. They also, at times, cross a line from memoir material to personal material. For instance, the commentaries on her patient's body types or their families. Such information has its place yet might have been fit better if it had been altered to suit a public format. Some of the best parts of the book were the commentaries of other women she spent time with. These chapters, interspersed within part 2 of the book, were indeed written in a more public and memoir style way rather than in a journal way. I admire Andreae and the women she worked with greatly. I believe if the memoir was edited and formatted differently, I could admire the book just as much.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    I am not with the negative reviewers of this book. It's not about educating the reader, it's about the emotional process of the writer while volunteering. It was useful for me, because I've been wondering if this is a thing I could do. After reading this, the answer was yes, I'd like to pursue this further. But it's not a how-to book or a resource. It's an honest personal account of how the author felt, which is valuable when considering this kind of work. And if you don't like how she felt, or I am not with the negative reviewers of this book. It's not about educating the reader, it's about the emotional process of the writer while volunteering. It was useful for me, because I've been wondering if this is a thing I could do. After reading this, the answer was yes, I'd like to pursue this further. But it's not a how-to book or a resource. It's an honest personal account of how the author felt, which is valuable when considering this kind of work. And if you don't like how she felt, or how she felt about difficult people she encountered or her struggle to do right by them even when she wasn't feeling it, or find how she felt was inappropriate, or imperfect, that's on you. Not the writer.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Saroum

    An autbiography about a Hospice volunteer and her experiences. Today, I graduated from the program and am an official Sharp Hospice Volunteer. Hooray. This book is about death but from a beautiful and humane perspective. It is not dark but hopeful.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I am a new hospice volunteer and also work in the emergency department, polar opposite practice areas. I found this book very helpful and appreciate the candor and wisdom of the author.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    Once again I guess I expected more. It was good, and I am very interested in Hospice and helping those who are dying and their families.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jan

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karen Zabadal

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ann Sargent

  18. 4 out of 5

    Neffie

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kareneliza

  20. 4 out of 5

    Linda Trionfo

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Ruby

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cazz

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stacie Wyatt

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sera Gray

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cammi

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