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At St. Peter's Hospital, No One Dies Alone ... Unless They Want To

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provided by St. Peter's Hospital
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St. Peter's Hospital

 

It has been said that when we come into this world, we come alone, and when we leave this world, we die alone. Though that sentiment may be true, some hospitals are doing what they can to make sure that anyone that wants company in their final hours, has it.

 

St. Peter’s Hospital in Olympia is just one of many hospitals with a No One Dies Alone (NODA) program.

 

In 2009, a nurse heard about a hospital with a similar program and brought the idea to St. Peter’s. The program is in its seventh year and is funded entirely by donations.  

When a patient is terminal and the end approaches, a member of the care team will ask if they would like to be a part of the NODA program — if they would like company.

 

The service also will also provide constant company to the dying if the family needs to leave for a few minutes or hours. It is not a mandatory thing; Some say, "no;" Some people would prefer to be alone. But for those who want the company, 115 volunteers work in shifts no longer than 4 hours each.

Sound Effect senior producer Arwen Nicks sat with NODA volunteer Charles Kasler to learn more about what it feels like for him when he sits with a dying stranger and to hear his poem inspired by his experience, "Temple of Love."

 

 

TEMPLE OF LOVE by Charles Kasler

I'm holding hands with a woman I just met

I only know her name

she's dying

she grips my finger like a baby

a pale pink rosary in her other hand

she's warm…hot

I close my eyes 

listening to the sound of her breath

wondering when it will stop

 

a tangle of tubes and monitors

flashing lights

IV drip

receiving the Blood of Christ 

by transfusion

 

this place has all the charm 

of an operating room

but for a few hours, or days

it's a Temple of Love -

the only thing that matters

a Temple for people of all faiths

or no faith

I join in the family prayers

Avé María, grátia pléna

and for a few hours 

I'm Catholic

 

a bouquet of sunflowers

with huge dark centers

a banana on the shelf

reflecting in the window

crosses 

rosaries

oxygen

hazardous waste containers

more bananas, slightly overripe

 

even the cleaning lady

enters in silence

and works with reverence

we make eye contact

that's all that is necessary

and for a few hours, or days

she's a holy woman

Avé María, grátia pléna

 

she comes over to hold my hand

tears in her eyes

and heart wide open

no words are needed

in the Temple of Love

 

 

 

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