New Journey: The Ninth Step

Class is over, and now the real learning begins.

I really need to start renaming how I number the posts in this series, or someday I’ll be up to “The Hundred-and-Fifteenth Step”….

Yesterday was my last hospice volunteer training class. I’ve been gently, quietly freaking out. The time for talking the talk is over. Now it’s time to walk the walk. And I’m not sure I can.

I thought I was the only one that felt this way. But of course, a little talking among my classmates quickly overturned that little paranoid delusion. We all felt anxious about actually doing what we’d signed on to do.

This week, we had current volunteers as guest speakers. They were relatively new, having completed their training only a year or two ago. And they had this to say:

The first time is scary. You want to do a good job, and it feels like there is so much to remember! But it changes into what it needs to be….

You’ll get your cues about what is needed. The patient will let you know if they need interaction, or quiet, to be touched or left alone.

The things you thought would be easy, might be hard. What you thought might be hard, will be easy.

Try not to anticipate what will be needed. Don’t be a “fixer”. Let go of that need to jump in and take over. Hold that part of yourself down.

And open yourself up.

Center yourself. Get quiet. Be peaceful. Observe. And be present.

We also had a hospice nurse talk with us. His final words of advice: You are all ready for something different in your life, or you wouldn’t be here. Don’t consider yourself a gift to others. Don’t worry about that part. Just consider the gift you are being given…. (to be with someone at the end of life.)

And now I can I see where my anxiety is coming from.

I’ve been working too hard on giving.

That sounds silly, I know. Here me out.

Lately, it feels like my gifts aren’t needed or wanted. Neither my art, nor my self, nor my intentions feel honored lately. My artwork sales are falling, the galleries say no, the memorial service I felt I was not welcome at, my artist friend who did not enjoy the article I wrote about him–one of my best, btw!–my son who does not want my mothering right now. All feel like failures, failures in what I do, what I don’t do, who I am.

And when I ask for help, I worry I’m asking for too much. It feels like I’m constantly asking for too much.

Now I see that in my search for the perfect exchange, that perfect moment when what is given is exactly what is needed, when what is needed is exactly what I have to offer, I have actually been selfish.

I’ve been trying to control the outcome. I have been driven by the need for gratitude.

And I cannot control the other side of that transaction. I have to let go of that. I can only control my actions, my intentions, my offering.

If my presence is not wanted, then at least I showed up. If my article caused anger, then at least I wrote out of love and respect. Doug may not accept it right now in this angry teenage phase, but my unwavering love for him is the greatest gift of all. I choose to give it freely, and he is free to not want it right now. Or rather, he is free to choose not to show he wants it right now.

And so here is where my real journey will begin. Next week, I go back to interview for my first volunteer assignment. It may be days, or weeks, or months before I am placed. I’m scared. But I’m going to do it.

I will show up, and see what’s there.

And I will be grateful.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

10 thoughts on “New Journey: The Ninth Step”

  1. As a fellow artist I can identify with not always having things just the way you’d like. As a daughter who experienced hospice with her father, I commend you for wanting to help. Not many are eager to take on such a role…in fact, I once heard a friend say he couldn’t even visit a nursing home because it’s too depressing. It’s easy to tell from your writings that your compassion and willingness to just ‘let it be what it will be’ are going to be valued by the patient but also by their family.


  2. Luann,
    I have found that when I am scared, really scared of doing something, I need to listen to that, give the fear 5 seconds of acknowledgment, and then jump right into what I’m afraid of.
    All of your hospice training will be invaluable, but perhaps the real truth of your service is that each individual you encounter will be different, will need or give something that you may not have been trained for. And yet in that scary place of not having all the right answers, or knowing exactly what you need to do, is where you will find all your answers: simply be.
    It may seem extremely naive or faithful of me to say this, but I think that in that last step of life, the universe aligns to provide with what is truly necessary. However much is written about death or the end of an illness, the only person who can truly know what to do is the person in hospice – so as you said, just be there, let them guide you, let them provide you with their own answers and their own individuality.
    As to everything else, I remember how you were mentioning the North Star guide book, and how you were visualizing your future. The path to getting there is merely made up of tiny little steps, taken in just a day. Sometimes we may be so burrowed in those little steps that we forget to look up – and in doing so see that we have come upon, or can see over the horizon, the wonderful place that is our own definition of paradise, success, etc.
    Thank you for sharing this – I sympathize with you, as I am going through exactly the same mixture of feelings. As they say, this too shall pass :). As long as you “Show up,” as you are very willing to do, everything will work itself out.



    1. Just letting you know your thoughts are spot-on, and I’ve found them to be very true. Thank you, Pia, for sharing during a period when I wasn’t sure where my next steps would lead me!


  3. Luann – For six years I trained hospice volunteers in a program that was probably very similar to the training you just completed. It was the most gratifying work I ever did. The people who are drawn to the work are a special breed – I left that job 10 years ago and I am still close to many of my former colleagues and volunteers.

    In addition to working with wonderful, caring people, it is also a great privilege to share this sacred time in an individual’s life. Your presence will be a gift to every family you touch, but you will get so much more than you give. You will bear witness to some of the most beautiful, the most raw, the most profound, the most forgiving, the most heartbreaking, the most defining moments life has to offer as this part of the journey ends.

    As I said before, hospice workers are a special caliber of person. You are one of that breed now. I applaud you, celebrate your courage and delight in the knowledge that this will open you up in ways you never expected!

    Don’t be afraid. You really just need to be present. That will be present enough.


    1. Susan, as I revisit this post, and reread your words, I feel a shiver go down my spine. Thank you for your powerful words. They are a gift, a gift I see even more clearly here, three years down the road!


  4. I understand and identify with so much of what you are going through. I can’t imagine being a Hospice volunteer… WOW, you are quite a lady in so many ways.



  5. I applaud your courage. Change is not an easy thing to except especially when we thrust it on ourselves. What you described about your life you might as well have been writing about my own. Different situations but the same feelings and I have to pass on the name of a book I just got – The First 30 Days your guide to making any change easier by Ariane de Bonvoisin. She is also the founder of It is worth the read but thanks for writing your newsletter and allowing so many of us to see we really are more alike than not.
    Best of luck with Hospice and the nurse is right.



  6. Okay, you guys, I appreciate your faith in me–but remember, I haven’t actually done the hard part (volunteering) yet! :^D
    Seriously, thank you all for your incredible support and thoughts and reading suggestions. And I am humbled by your words of encouragement. I hope I do them justice in the months ahead.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: