As Mother Teresa is being declared a saint by Pope Francis, I remember our meeting in the last year of her life. In 1996, I was visiting India and one evening after viewing the Taj Mahal in Agra, I met a priest in the hotel bar. Really. He was on his way to Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying Destitute. When I mentioned my lifelong work with the dying, he asked if I wanted to join him.
In his short lifetime, Paul Kalanithi earned a BA and an MA in English literature from Stanford; an MPhil in history and philosophy of science and medicine from Cambridge; and an MD from Yale School of Medicine. At Stanford, he was finishing up his residency in neurosurgery and neuroscience, when he learned he was dying. He was 36.
Let's start thinking of hospice as a normal part of medical care. Hospice shouldn't be something to be afraid of or be considered substandard care. Instead, think of it as a way to provide continue to provide care, although different than what we traditionally may think, and a more comfortable transition during the natural progression of life.
End of life is fraught with the stuff of life, and that can include tense relationships between spouses, parents and children, siblings who may disagree on a parent's care or may harbor years of rivalries and resentments. With skill and compassion, VNSNY Hospice counselors and clinicians help foster healing communication at life's end.