The Dying Teach Us

      How To Live

About the Book - The Dying Teach Us How to Live

 

I embarked on my enforced death and dying journey at age 30 with the sudden death of my 54 year old father after a motorcycle/car accident. My 32 year old brother-in-law died in an explosion on an oil rig in the Philippines ten days later. Two family deaths in such a short time shattered our lives. Instantly, grief engulfed our existence. There was no support system such as hospice, no grief counseling and no knowledge of where to turn for help. I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was expected and normal for the situation. It seemed as if time stopped for me and I couldn’t understand why life for others continued on. My faith in God anchored me as I struggled to take one day at a time and find meaning in death.

I yearned to make a difference for others. I believed that other people could cushion their grief process with support services. My first job as a social worker was with a hospice. I embraced the joy of sharing hard-earned coping skills with the bereaved.

After two years, I needed to enter other social work systems while I raised my family. Hospice grief work encompasses long, emotionally charged days and nights that challenge a normal life at home. I worked in nursing homes, adult daycares and in community organizations. Hospice has always been my passion and I returned to share in the last days of each unique hospice patient and his or her family.

As a young mother, I became a childbirth educator for ten years. At one time I worked at hospice full-time and part-time teaching childbirth and breast feeding classes. One night, I was present at the same hospital for a birth and a death. The circle of life was complete: one person was entering the world and one was leaving it. It was a time of faith and appreciation for the miracle of life.

In the sidebar, is a picture of Alice, one of my patients. She was very ill but she refused to die until her great-grandchild was born. She was able to make that wish come true.

I have worked twenty nine years as a social worker. In the seventeen years as a Hospice Social Worker, as I listened to the final thoughts, feelings and faith of the dying, I was privileged to have them share near death experiences. They educated me about life and death. I used the stories I heard to teach, provide comfort and give hope to other patients and families. they often told me, “You should write a book.” I wrote “the Dying Teach Us How to Live” to make their lives and courage continue on. God has given me the talent to paint. I often created paintings of patients to give to families after their deaths. I am including a collection of my paintings and drawings as the illustrations for this book that is the culmination of my life’s work.

 

Pat Acker MS, LSW
Former Hospice Social Worker

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