Opening Hearts Through Hospice
The wonder of modern technology can oftentimes lead to new discoveries and sometimes even new friendships; this was the case with my introduction to Penny Davis. We met through a professional grief counselor who offered to connect us after reading about the Windows Within Project. When I met Penny, It was clear why she would be in the forefront of one’s mind when delving into the world of Hospice.
Having served in Executive positions within Hospice in Indiana for more than half of her forty-five years, Penny has an expansive, yet intimate perspective on what patients and families experience during end of life. She also knows what it means to participate in a “care team” and to carry out a specific care plans. Although those administrative years (and long days) are now behind her, she remains dedicated to Hospice, serving on the Board of the Indiana Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and as a volunteer since retiring in 2012.
As a volunteer, Penny’s service is grounded in the wisdom she has gained over the years. She knows that death is personal in nature—that countless variations exists within one diagnosis and that physical manifestation of disease states vary greatly. She also knows that every one has their story, one intertwined with “letting go”. Personally, Penny experienced this individuality of death while caring for her father who died in the care of Hospice.
“I knew he wanted permission to go, but he needed reassurance that my mom would be taken care of when he passed, “ she said. So, Penny told me she slipped her arm underneath his head and whispered, “Daddy, you need to let go, we’re going to take care of mom now.” Miraculously, he died shortly afterwards, peacefully, and in her arms.
Penny understood that her dad needed reassurance in the end. Yet she knows that others may reach out for serenity and still others, seek the comfort of friends and family. It is the variety of personal experiences around death that continue to serve as teaching moments for Penny. These moments become stories and the stories become part of Penny’s life. She tells me of a woman she once visited who created beautiful and special holiday traditions resulting in lasting memories for her children. And, she accomplished this with next to nothing in terms of riches. Additionally, Penny recalls learning of what truly makes a loving home from this woman. It is in the wake of adversity that patients astound Penny, with vision and determination, and she feels privileged and honored to be a part of their lives, and deaths.
We finished our conversation talking about death and I wondered if Penny could shed some light on the wisdom she had gained over the years. She shared a profound observation,
“Lean in, not away, from people who are dying,” she said.
We talked about overcoming fears around death and the importance of respect. Respect for the privilege of serving others, respect for variation of “home” and respect for a person’s dignity and self-worth. Clearly, in life we find these things important and in death it should be the same.
Penny not only “leans in”, she also leads. Through her Hospice service, she transmits a profound understanding of the possibilities of a fulfilling end of life experience, to be embraced, celebrated and loved by family and friends. She reminds us that if we can remember how we welcome a new baby into the world, we can do the same for a person that is departing.
A lovely sentiment and a beautiful vision shared by a true Visionary.
Penny Davis is the author of PJ’s, Pearls, and Fishing Poles, a collection of heart-warming stories and reflections inspired by a long-standing career with Hospice.
See Quote by Penny Davis
Penny is a volunteer with St. Vincent Hospice and the author of PJ’s, Pearls, and Fishing Poles, A Loving Story About Hospice, www.penny-davis.com
- Know that death is personal in its nature, countless variations exist
- Lean in, not away, from people who are dying