This story originally aired on March 10, 2018.
Queen Mae Butters has worked side by side with death for about 30 years. She’s a hospice nurse, meaning she cares for people at the end of their lives and helps them transition from life to death. That may sound like sad work -- and it is, says Butters. But it’s so much more than that.
“At the beginning of my career I really felt like death was the thing we were against, and we were all trying to keep death from happening. And now … I don’t see death as the enemy at all. I see it as one of our longest friends,” she says.
Butters works with her patients to see the process of dying as part of life, a part that can be lived as fully as we experience other big life events. And as part of that, she often finds herself getting close to people in their last days. Far from putting up emotional barriers to spare herself the grief, Butters looks to live those moments along with her patients.
“My hope for people is that they come to their deaths with more life in them. And we can get in the habit of taking so many treatments for our conditions, that it wears out our life force, so then when we come to this engaging moment, we may not be in our full presence,” Butters says.
You can get a flavor of how Butters thinks about life and death through her stories. Click the listen link above to hear her interview, along with the story “Love,” which is “about falling in love, at a deathbed.”
And here are two bonus stories from Butters’ collection: