“We are eyewitnesses to the infinite value of the last days. We see the miraculous spiritual growth and reconciliations, the heroism, humor, and unconditional love of the dying. We feel the graces that flow and, if we’re attentive, we see the eyes of Jesus. Even if the whole world insists that killing can be an act of mercy and compassion, hospice midwives must stand firmly and boldly in the defense of life, from womb to tomb. It’s nothing less than our duty to speak the truth we’ve been blessed with.” – Midwife of Souls,p. 75
It is precisely this eyewitness account of the infinite value of the last days which seasoned nurse and hospice care practitioner Kathy Kalina offers to her readers in her book Midwife for Souls: Spiritual Care for the Dying. Comprised mainly of stories from her own experience with the dying, this work grants a rich and privileged perspective into the mysterious beauty of the last days of life. Although written primarily as a guide for hospice workers and those who live with the terminally ill, the vignettes contained therein testify powerfully to all readers about the inviolable sacredness of the soul’s final journey to God, and offer practical wisdom on how to accompany a loved one during the last days of this pilgrimage.
The author begins by sharing her original reluctance to become involved with hospice care, rooted in her distasteful experiences of hospital practices regarding death. In her time as a nurse she had seen numerous patients who, though clearly past the point of being able to be cured, were made to endure painful and unnecessarily prolonged treatment. Believing there must be a better way in which to accompany the dying she came to appreciate the contrast she found in hospice which, in focusing on the control of symptoms rather than the cure of the disease, offers the patient the opportunity to die in the peace of their own home surrounded by their family. She states that “care for the dying has traditionally been a function of the family with generous community support.” However, because the geographical scattering of families and communities has resulted in a general ignorance about how to care for the terminally ill, she believes that “the hospice team can fill these gaps, acting as a substitute for family wisdom and community support, giving families the courage to care for their loved ones at home.”
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