What does welcome look like? For me this week, welcome looked like a hospice family member who was so worried that I would slip on the icy sidewalk leading into their home that she placed a walkway of towels on the path. When I pulled my car up to the sidewalk, I smiled. With all that going on in this person’s life, she stopped and thought of my safety. I felt like a very important person walking this red carpet laid out just for me.

Since I walked this sacred path, I have been thinking about welcome and hospitality. How can I welcome someone else with this much love and compassion? What opportunities do I have to lay out a path of towels to keep someone else from falling? Who needs to know they are a very important person and loved beyond measure? How can I live a life of true hospitality? While we all continue to think on these things, I invite you to pray with me.

Welcoming God, Open our hearts to each other this week. Remind us to look out for those walking alone and invite them to walk with us. Slow us down so we can see where we can clear a safe path for another. And when we are the ones being welcomed, give us grateful hearts to embrace the compassion we have been offered. Amen.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters Most in the End
Atul GawandeWhile I admit that I was drawn to this book because of the work I do, this is a book for everyone to read. In easily readable and understandable language, Gawande helps us to see that we will all die and the way we deal with aging in our country needs to be changed. He shares stories of people who felt like they had lost all control as they aged and the frustrations family members faced as they tried to be caregivers and keep their loved ones safe. In these pages you’ll see the author change his own understanding of how those in the medical field help us throughout our life. I hope this book will give you the courage to have difficult conversations with your loved ones. What are your hopes and fears for the end of your life? What does your best day look like and how can we help give you one more best day?

In my work, I see first hand the challenges of caring for family members who are ill. Many people prefer to remain at home and do not understand the challenges of caregiving. Others live in facilities with all the challenges associated with not being in one’s own home. I loved reading about the reformers who offer alternatives to these two options including the first assisted living home and Chase Memorial Nursing Home with two dogs, four cats, and 100 birds. Although Gawande shares different options being tried across the country, he does not sugar coat the difficulties that these places face as they try to care for people as they age.

I loved this book because I love what I get to do for living. I dream of a day where people aren’t afraid of the word hospice because everyone has already had conversations about end of life wishes and goals with their family members. While I know this type of conversation is not easy for most people, I encourage you to read this book and talk with your loved ones about what you want, what is important for you in your life and also in your death. I hope that reading this book and meeting the people on these pages will give us all the courage to speak honestly about our limits, our hopes, and our deaths.