A lady who worked for Hospice of Memphis thrilled me describing a service they provide. It's called a "life review," and they started doing it when they realized how many of their patients didn't feel good about the life they had lived.
Some dying people have lost contact with the good experiences they have had. They need a skillful person to pull out those forgotten pieces of their lives, those successes, those jobs they enjoyed and did well, those children they raised and gave a decent start in life, those people they loved deeply and made happy.
We are much too acutely aware of our failures. I have seen that many children of parents who saw themselves as failures saw the good their parents did for them. When children sense that someone loves them at all, they tend to remember the love.
Some dying people feel pretty good about what they have been able to accomplish -- like an old man who had never had any interest in religion and was finding it difficult to face death. The Christian counselor was unable to comfort him because the old boy had never understood Christian theology. So he asked a Hindu staff member to talk to him about the Hindu concept of Maya, or "illusion."
The Hindu carefully explained their idea that this life is full of illusion, and all the time she was talking he just blinked his eyes trying to understand. Finally, he raised up on one elbow and said, "Well, you may be right that my life was a big illusion, but all I've got to say is I sure made a big splash where I thought I was."
Some people just do not feel they made such a big splash with their lives. I know a person who raised a handicapped child who felt that way. The truth was that not one person in a thousand would have given the child the loving patience and tender care he received.
If you want to take a day to do a life review, it will be worth the time. But right now, just do a short version, and it will convince you of the value of it.
Just list five people you have loved very deeply. Since love is the greatest thing in the world, anyone who has loved has not lived in vain.
List five unselfish things you have done in your life. If it is nothing but a United Way contribution, I can tell you as a former school social worker that those gifts make a big difference. I had a little boy named Charlie who had no father, a mentally ill sister and a retarded mother. Once I got him a Big Brother, he took off like a rocket. Someone gave the money to United Way to help save Charlie.
List a few jobs you held that you feel you did well. It doesn't have to be something sensational. Very little of the vital work of this world is sensational. If everyone decided they wanted to do nothing but sensational work, there would be no garbage picked up, no packages delivered, no babies changed, no old people bathed in nursing homes.
You don't have to be under Hospice care to do a life review. Do yourself a favor and try it.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.