By Sheena King
From PHN Issue 45, Winter 2021
My name is Sheena King, and after 28 years of incarceration in a female facility, I have witnessed many women provide care for each other in various ways. We provided simple things for each other, such as throat lozenges and acetaminophen for a cold or flu, or ibuprofen for pain or injuries. We push wheelchairs for our sisters and help them up and down steps.
As a volunteer hospice worker, I can attest that there is nothing more rewarding, yet heartbreaking. I have never been more aware of my own aging body and mortality. There is a heaviness that settles over you and a keen awareness of the fear and loneliness of the woman lying in front of you. It breaks your heart but any sign of anguish from me would only increase her fear. You must just be. That is the sole purpose, to be with her, ease her loneliness and pray or read from a Holy Book if she wants you to. This isn’t about you.
For myself and other volunteers that I have spoken to, it is imperative to be spiritually connected to a Higher Source. For me, it is God. When I am not with my hospice patient, I pray for her, her family and for strength for myself so that I can be there for her as she needs me to be. When she dies, many of us cry and allow each other the space to talk. I will generally journal about the experience, read scripture, and meditate to re-center, re-orient myself.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t affected by each death. It’s something you don’t forget, but I do it because no one should die alone in a cold, uncaring prison infirmary