My partner, Su, died in the local hospice at the end of March. My empty life as a result and my respect for the people who cared for Su inspired me to volunteer to work in the hospice with dying people.

It won’t be a new experience for me. During the AIDS crisis, I took care of gay men dying of AIDS. When the crisis ebbed, I worked with the homeless, then for seven years I volunteered in the hospice looking after the dying. I did that work, in part, because I knew that few Americans were willing to spend time with those near death. I was less a caregiver than a companion to those who had little time left to live. I was astonished to discover that we Americans avoid the subject of death and are afraid of being with those near death. So the hospice never has enough volunteers.

In my earlier years of working in a hospice, I don’t recall ever having any training. That has changed. I’m currently undergoing virtual training, thanks to the pandemic lockdown, offered on the internet. Much of it has to do with facing the existence of death at a conscious level. I was surprised at how uncomfortable that made me.

I won’t begin my volunteer work until after the lockdown is over, but I should finish the training within the week. As I progress, I’ll record here my reactions and feelings. This is beginning to feel like a major step.

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