Dame Cicely Saunders
was the founder
of modern hospice care.
She used to tell
of a cancer patient
she once cared for.
He was forty years old,
a survivor of World War II
and the Warsaw Ghetto.
The two of them sometimes spoke
of his life and his sufferings,
as well as his limited future.
Once she asked him,
“What do you want of me
as your caregiver?”
This was his reply:
“I want only
what is in your mind
and in your heart.”
She never forgot his request,
as she invested her life caring for others
and teaching others how to care.

“I want only what is in your mind
and in your heart.”
Our becoming present and staying present
is important, of course.
Our hands-on care is irreplaceable.
But almost always something more
is asked of us,
whether or not words are used.
“I want to know your thoughts too,
and your feelings no less.”
Those in our care want more
than physical contact.
They want to know something
of our inward nature,
our inner spirit.
They want to sense
that it’s a whole human being
who meets them in these acts of care.
“I want only the complete you,
including the vulnerable you,
the imperfect you.”
Those in our care want
not us playing a role
but us living out our authenticity.
They want us to bring
the fullness of who we are
so we can meet the fullness
of who they are.
They’re aware that their own wholeness
responds best in relationship
to the wholeness of others,
to the wholeness of us.
Wholeness is good.
It is healing.
It is life-giving, life-sharing.

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