How a hospice worker helped this family through their tough time.
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When Christine Powers was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1995, she took it in stride.

No one would have blamed her if she had complained, but that wasn't her way.

Christine in New York City. All photos via Gerry Powers, used with permission.


It was the same thing when Christine was diagnosed with malignant skin cancer in 2000.

Even when the cancer reappeared later, seven years after being cancer-free, she kept her composure. That time, the cancer had spread to her brain. After multiple operations and a multi-year battle, it was clear the cancer was terminal, so her family opted to get Christine hospice care.

For anyone not familiar with it, the term "hospice" can seem like it carries some mysterious and scary connotations, but it actually refers to a type of medical and emotional care for people in the last stages of a terminal illness. It helps them and their families manage the end of life with as much compassion as possible by focusing on the quality of life instead of continuing often painful treatments to prolong it.

Samantha Lee is one of the hospice aids who helped care for Christine in her last years. 

"Christine was the youngest patient I ever had," Samantha says. "I was in love with that family so much."

The Powers family.

Hospice nurses and aides try to ensure a patient isn't in pain and help them — as much as possible — live their final days with dignity.

When Samantha helped take care of Christine, she came to the house five days a week, four hours at a time. She would cook, wash clothes, run errands, talk with Christine, and then work with her to try to keep her energy and mood up. She helped her do some exercises, and she encouraged her to do one major project a day to keep her spirits up.

"Our home aides knew Christine really, really well," Gerry Powers, Christine's husband, fondly recalls.

Gerry and Christine Powers.

And they were with her until the end, making her as comfortable as possible and the family as cared for as possible.

"You can be intellectually prepared for a loss, if someone in your life is declining," Gerry says. "But I don't think you’re ever really emotionally prepared when it happens. That’s the thing."

Samantha says people's eyes get big when she tells them she's a hospice worker, caring for patients at the end of their lives.

"They'll say, 'Oh, you’re a hospice aide? Wow, must be hard. Why do you like that?'" she mimics over the phone.

But you can tell by her voice just how much she loves her job. She says she's grateful that she can be there to help the patients and their loved ones through this difficult time.

"[This job] changed me around," she says. "It made me more soft on the inside, more compassionate and humbled."

One thing Samantha has learned from her work is the importance of having conversations about death and dying early on.

It's not an easy thing to do, but talking openly about death can bring some comfort to the end of life.

Especially in Western countries, talking about death is kind of taboo and invokes anxiety and fear in many of us. But if a loved one dies without ever having shared their end-of-life wishes, it can add extra stress and confusion during crisis mode.

"You have one family member that feels that this is not the way to live, that [the loved one] should go," says Samantha. "Then you have the other family member that wants to hold on."

She says that if people start conversations about what they want when they get to the end, then it shouldn't be a problem when the time actually comes. Family members will know exactly what they need to do and be able to spend more time focusing on their loved one and taking care of themselves.

Gerry and Christine.

Samantha says that her work as a hospice worker has also given her a new perspective on life and death.

"I look at life much different," she says.

"It really doesn't make sense to be so angry and have a lot of hatred in your heart because nobody knows when their time is up."

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Davina Agudelo was born in Miami, Florida, but she grew up in Medellín, Colombia.

"I am so grateful for my upbringing in Colombia, surrounded by mountains and mango trees, and for my Colombian family," Agudelo says. "Colombia is the place where I learned what's truly essential in life." It's also where she found her passion for the arts.

While she was growing up, Colombia was going through a violent drug war, and Agudelo turned to literature, theater, singing, and creative writing as a refuge. "Journaling became a sacred practice, where I could leave on the page my dreams & longings as well as my joy and sadness," she says. "During those years, poetry came to me naturally. My grandfather was a poet and though I never met him, maybe there is a little bit of his love for poetry within me."

In 1998, when she left her home and everyone she loved and moved to California, the arts continued to be her solace and comfort. She got her bachelor's degree in theater arts before getting certified in journalism at UCLA. It was there she realized the need to create a media platform that highlighted the positive contributions of LatinX in the US.

"I know the power that storytelling and writing our own stories have and how creative writing can aid us in our own transformation."

In 2012, she started Alegría Magazine and it was a great success. Later, she refurbished a van into a mobile bookstore to celebrate Latin American and LatinX indie authors and poets, while also encouraging children's reading and writing in low-income communities across Southern California.

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via Pixabay

As people get older, social isolation and loneliness become serious problems. Many find themselves living alone for the first time after the death of a spouse. It's also difficult for older people to maintain friendships when people they've known for years become ill or pass away.

Census Bureau figures say that almost a quarter of men and nearly 46% of women over the age of 75 live alone.

But loneliness doesn't just affect those who reside by themselves. People can feel lonely when there is a discrepancy between their desired and actual relationships. To put it simply, when it comes to having a healthy social life, quality is just as important as quantity.

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