Wouldn’t it be great to navigate this tangled journey with peace in spite of suffering?
For over twenty years, Susan Rush has walked alongside the dying and grieving. In Renew, she shares stories of her most inspirational patients—heroes who embraced life until their final breath. Every chapter begins with a hospice story followed by a reflection. She includes a verse for meditation, thought-provoking questions and finally a prayer. Susan weaves a life lesson into each daily reading with compassion, humor and transparency—unashamed to reveal her own failures. You will laugh as much as you cry and end each chapter feeling challenged and encouraged. Whether you just need a little pick-me-up or a whole new perspective, Renew will inspire you to appreciate each day as you live with more purpose and passion.
Rain pelts down on this dreary Monday morning at hospice. I really don't like my job. Morbid. Depressing. I'm kind of over it, but I have to press on. I really do need a paycheck. I've recently lost a non-profit business, and I'm in debt up to my tear-filled eyeballs.
Looking around the conference table, I see Joe whose son is back in rehab. There's Mary, who just found out she's not pregnant—again the fertility drugs failed. Beth, newly divorced, is recounting her weekend of on-call. “Pain issues. . . Mentally ill caregiver . . . Patient fell. . .” She drones on and on. I only hear snippets as I continue to survey the faces around the table—hurting people trying to help hurting people.
I glance at my schedule. Overwhelmed. Yep, it's 8:15, and I'm already overwhelmed. Ten-year-old with leukemia, twenty-one-year-old with AIDS, fifty-three-year-old with breast cancer. I close my eyes, and I see an image of The Scream. It captures my feelings perfectly. Would the hospice team think I’m losing it if I hang a print of the famous art above my desk?
Well, there’s no escaping my day so I think I’ll make a quick visit to Pastor T. Hopefully he can provide at least a little encouragement before I trudge through this muck I call a career.
As I walk in, I hear him on the phone, “She needs help to post her bond, and I don’t want her to be in jail another night.” He looks up and winks, motioning me to come in and sit. “Is someone going to the hospital to see Tom? I have a few other needs on my list, but I’ll have to call you back. My friend is here to visit.”
Did he just call me a friend? I'm honored.
The crinkles around his eyes deepen as his smile reveals aged, slightly crooked teeth. It’s the warmest face within a thousand miles. “It's so good to see you, Susan.” His outstretched arms welcome a much-needed hug. As I nestle against his chest, I enjoy his smell of Old Spice and peppermint. He pats my back in his paternal way and releases me. I want to latch on to my rock—stay in the comfort of his embrace—but I step away, and he sits in his worn chair. “My dear, tell me how I can help you today?”
I feel like collapsing in a heap of blubbering madness. Instead, I command my back to stay straight as I sit on the stool in front of him. “I just came for a quick visit. Tell me how you've been.” Good. My voice is steady—no signs of a crazed woman here.
A grin tugs at his withered lips. “It may be pouring outside, but it's right as rain in here.” He checks his pocket watch that looks even more ancient than he. “I have about twenty minutes before I need to start the Bible study.” He chuckles. “Thirty people are coming now.” His smile fades as his brow furrows. He cocks his head to one side, studying me. “You look a bit disheveled today. Tell me how you really are.”
I look out the window at the weeping sky, and I clinch my teeth to keep my chin from quivering. My emotions always find their way to the surface, and I fear my face is betraying my inner wrestling. Great. Now the tears are building. Suck it up, Susan. “Fake it til you make it.” Isn’t that what Dr. Phil says?
“I said tell me how you really are.” He clears his throat for emphasis.
“I don’t think I can do this anymore.” I can’t control the loud exhale that follows my confession. There. I did it. After months of stuffing it, I freed the captive words.
“You don’t think you can?” His tone is slightly accusatory and this infuriates me. “What exactly can’t you do?” He temples his index fingers under his chin as he raises one brow.
I’ve played this game with him before. He won’t speak again until I answer. “Being around dying and grieving people all day.” The words hang in the air—mean, insensitive words. Oh, how I wish I could take them back. If only I had a rewind button. I sound so selfish, so worthless.
About the Author
I wish I could say God whispered He wanted me to work with the dying, and I humbly and gratefully obeyed. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Mother Teresa, I am not. He led me to a career in hospice, but I ran in the opposite direction. Dying people scared me. And dead bodies? They terrified me. Plus, I'm a weeper. It's not a complete day if I haven't cried at least once--not a good fit for hospice care.
Against all reason, God had his way. Imagine that. I followed the rocky path, but I went kicking and screaming the whole way with plenty of meltdowns along the way. You can read about some of them in Renew. Please don't judge me too harshly, I'm a work in progress. Surprisingly, twenty-plus years into it, I'm passionate about end-of-life care. I'm as comfortable talking with the dying as with my children. And that's nothing but a miracle! Dozens of heroes have taught me invaluable lessons, and they fill the pages of my books. My hospice heroes never cease so amaze me, and I am eternally grateful my path crossed with theirs.
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Susan Rush is giving away a copy of Renew. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.