Discover the profound and transformative power of presence in this touching reflection by Sister Eva Kowalski. Through her journey as a hospice volunteer and her personal battle with illness, Sister Eva shares the invaluable lessons learned at Hildegard House—a ministry that cares for those at life’s end.
As a result of my volunteer work in Hospice in Nelson County and visiting PLWAs in Ft. Lauderdale, I became aware of my gift of helping people to die. That gift also came from my own experience of facing death due to a diagnosis of liver and colon cancer.
Hildegard House is a ministry that cares for people who are dying and who have no one to care for them. During a five-hour shift, another volunteer and I respond to the needs of the residents, needs that would be met by a nurse and a nurse’s aide. However, more importantly, the time I spend with the residents, sharing prayer or a conversation, holding their hand, being present in silence, and, when appropriate, using humor are “sacred moments” that I treasure. When a resident is actively dying, we take turns being with that resident. At this time, I deem the power of presence to be deeply profound and powerful.
My efforts to perform quiet acts of compassion during my shift at Hildegard House are my means of making an impact in this ministry. In my encounters with the dying, staff and volunteers, I strive to treat them with absolute dignity and respect. The face of Christ comes in myriad ways at Hildegard House.
The powerful examples of how the residents choose to die at Hildegard House are genuinely amazing. Their struggles and coming to peace with death (or not) present a path we must take. In their journey to death, I realized my life should perceive and appreciate beauty in all God’s creation and have a deepened appreciation of life itself. I have come to value how I choose to live with each day I am gifted.