Health Magazine

Bill Carpenter, Reflections on Dying, Service and End of Life

Posted on the 19 March 2015 by Maryyork

Our Hospice Spotlight Volunteer’s Reflections are shared monthly. Reflections are stories of connection and meaning, presented in the volunteer’s own words. Here are Bill Carpenter’s Reflections.


One Tear Down Her Cheek

“At the Hosparus Intensive Care Unit, I often sit with patients who have no one with them and they are dying. I tell them how the weather is, etc. Recently, I sat with a woman and I shared beautiful reflections about her children and as I talked, she barely moved, but she had one tear roll down her cheek, as if she was saying: “I know you are there and it makes a difference.” I’ve often thought of that tear as a symbol, a symbol of love and connection. People need someone to be there when they die. It is one of the most significant things a person will do-die. I believe you don’t want to be by yourself when that happens. Sometimes a fear emerges, but I reach out and touch their hand to comfort them. Healing touch is so crucial and I believe people need touch to be emotionally healthy.”

“My life does not revolve around relationships—but rather it is focused on service to a higher power, my God, who uses me as a vehicle for service in this world. Having this belief has helped me help others with the grieving process. I see people who act as if their lives are falling apart because they have lost a loved one. I can sympathize, and would, for example, miss my wife if she died, but she is not my life. I’m an independent whole person without her. Independence comes from this connection to God for me; he is my satisfaction and my security—not another person. This philosophy helps when I share this with family and they begin to absorb a strategy to go on.”


Everyone Dies Differently

“Something that I marvel at with patient experiences is that everybody dies, everybody will die. But, everyone dies differently. It may be 3 deep breaths per minute or 22 breaths per minute. Everybody is different in the dying process; there is not one that is the same. It’s interesting to me because life is so multi-faceted. In other words, your life is different than mine. And, our dying is in a different way too. This individuality is a beautiful thing—to see that uniqueness in every person. Everyday has a sunset, but every sunset is different.”

“One thing I know is that things tend to get better. People need hope. When my father died when I was 5, we went from riches to rags. But, my mother, with little education, raised the children even though there were many difficult times. I know and believe that things are going to work out; this outlook is supported by a belief in faith and adoption of confidence. I sat once with a man who was dying, but was still hanging on. His family mentioned that he was concerned about who would take care of his wife once he passed. I assured him someone would be there for her and that it was going to be all right.”


Being a Friend

“The work with families is some of my greatest work at Hosparus. More than helping those that are dying, it is helping the families. One patient had a daughter who was his sole caretaker; she had all of the responsibility of caring for her dad and she worked very hard. Given the emotional drain and fatigue that it takes to care for someone, sometimes I’m fulfilling my volunteer service as a friend to a caretaker. There are things that people want and need to talk about, if you are willing and able; as a Hosparus volunteer you are not afraid to approach those subjects.”

Spotlight on Bill Carpenter

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