Something magical happens when we give up time and precious resources for someone else. There is a mysterious teaching by Jesus in the Bible that illuminates that magic: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24). It seems like we are designed with the unique ability to bless, to multiply life. It may not be a natural instinct for all but everybody without exception gets to be amazed by the multiplier effect when we sacrifice.
HCA Hospice Care is like Universal Studio: where every studio you walk into, a movie on the theme of sacrifice is being produced on a daily basis. As president, I was granted a front row seat to witness a loving community of staff and volunteers give up better pay, opportunity, comfort, sleep, personal assets and more so that our beneficiaries would gain peace of mind, dignity to live out the last days and a preparedness to transit from this life to the next.
The hospice staff will go an extra mile each time the patient's symptoms deteriorate. Our selfless volunteers provide a diversity of help that are often not known to the general public. These angels take leave from work to cook for our patients, deliver groceries to their homes, fetch them to medical appointments at the hospital, style their hair to look dignified, arrange for outings to places of interest. The countless acts of love take place daily and yet there are instances when the length and breadth of loving kindness are stuff of legend.
An elderly lady became too weak to go to church on her own. A pair of home volunteers who were staunch Buddhists put aside their discomfort, accompanied her to her church and sat through two hours of the Christian worship service. A sole breadwinner was in his last months of life. His wife was also sickly and could not find a job to support their four kids. Our senior nurse started to give them her own money secretly until other volunteers found out and helped chip in till the family was referred to public financial aid. A Samsui woman had deteriorated in her malignancy and had to be transferred from her home to Dover Park Hospice. She confessed to her regular HCA home volunteer that she had a lifesaving of $4,000. Would he be kind enough to cremate and organize her sea burial and donate the remaining amount to HCA Hospice Care and Dover Park Hospice? Not only did her HCA befriender promise to fulfill her last request, he did so with his own money leaving a donation of $2,000 to each hospice.
How can one encounter such torrents of human kindness without his or her soul being transformed? I have learned many significant lessons as a volunteer in the hospice movement but the most important is this - compassionate services for end-of-life rest on a bedrock of sacrifice. Jesus is right - every time a grain falls to the ground and dies, its life is multiplied.