At Joseph’s House when a person is in the last days and hours of life, we accompany him or her, around the clock. Our staff and volunteers take turns keeping vigil with the one who is dying, providing physical care under the direction of our nurses, and being an open, attentive presence. This can take courage. Always it is a kind of attuning to the person who is dying. It is sacred space.
When death arrives at Joseph’s House it is never an emergency. We pause at the bedside after the last breath has been taken and allow ourselves to feel the mystery of the absence of this person who just a few minutes ago – was here.
Without hurry, we remove the medical paraphernalia from the room. Someone brings in a lighted candle. With scented water we bathe the body of this man, this woman and dress them in clean clothes. We put clean sheets on the bed. We bring simplicity and beauty into the room. At this point, those who want to, come to the room to spend time with the body of this person who once was with us. Sometimes there are many of us together. Other times someone sits alone with the body.
When the undertaker comes, all who can, accompany the deceased out of Joseph’s House to the waiting van. In this way we go the distance with our friend. In this way also, we bear witness to those who pass by or stand at a distance and watch, that it is possible to meet death with respect; even with tenderness.