Saturday, July 10, 2004
Hospice nurses share insights into spirit transition
By ANNE GEGGIS
NEWS-JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
When breathing becomes too much of a labor, dying is an experience to embrace, according to two local nurses who have spent most of their lives tending to terminally ill patients.
In their book, “Dying with Joy and Sorrow,” the nurses bring the reader to the bedsides of the dying, including everyday people, such as Wally, 78, and celebrities such as actor Michael Landon. Since the books publication, donations have helped cover the cost of publishing. And the wife of former President Jimmy Carter requested a copy for the library of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving after seeing a rough draft.
“Its one of the only books that I know of that brings the stories from the bedside to the public,” said Fran Davis, executive director of Hospice of Volusia/Flagler.
In the 184-page volume published this spring, a boy writes of his last visit to the beach with his dying father. Caregivers recount a dogs devotion as his mistress passes on. And last exchanges of “I love yous” are all part of this book designed to ease fears when facing death.
With more than half a century of combined experience with dying, Judy Voss, 51, of New Smyrna Beach and Linda Neider, 53, of Deltona set out to compile some of the emotional experiences they observed as nurses with Hospice of Volusia/Flagler.
“Very often, people are afraid to be around people who are dying – they dont know whats going to happen at the very moment a loved one is going to die,” Voss said. She recalled going to the home of a dying patient who had family with her as she took her last breaths. Still, it was Voss she turned to and asked, “Will you hold me?”
“Its easier for people to see the joy in dying when they understand whats happening,” Voss said.
Neider, who got into hospice nursing after her mother-in-law died of cancer, explained further: “Its not joy like the kind you get going to (Walt) Disney World. Its a spiritual joy that comes from when families gather.”
Voss and Neider donated their time and money toward the books publishing costs, printing 4,500 copies. Any proceeds from the sale of the $18.75 book beyond the cost of printing will be donated to Hospice of Volusia/Flagler. The Rotary Club of DeLand donated $500 toward the printing. And Doris Tomljenovich, 70, of Edgewater was so moved by reading it, she joined the board of Voss End-of-Life Publishing Co.
“The book shows that death is a part of life,” Tomljenovich said. “Its something thats really needed.”
Voss and Neider said most patients families are beginning to understand that there comes a time to turn away from medicines lifesaving emphasis toward dying with dignity. At some point, the struggle to stay alive should be abandoned.
“Simply stated, there is end of life,” Neider said. “We should be as in charge at the end of our lives as we are in living our lives.”
On the Net:
The book can be ordered through www.eolpublishing.com.