Working In A Hospice: What I’ve Learned About Living Through People Who Are Dying

Matthias Ripp
Matthias Ripp

“People don’t expect you to feel in any way lucky when you have a terminal cancer diagnosis, but I am. I’m so lucky. I absolutely treasure every tiny moment. What a blessing to see the world like that.”

I work in Digital Communications at a hospice. It’s a job that means I’ve shared the stories of a lot of dying people: dying people with a prognosis. A year. Six months. Three. At a push.

Consequently, it’s a job in which I’ve observed a lot: humanity, supreme courage in the face of adversity, this intense, intrinsic desire to know that we are not alone: to connect, and of course, the actuality of our mortality.

Like, woah.

No matter how funny or smart or loved we are, the universe, quite frankly, does not give a shit. There is vibrant injustice and overwhelming fragility in our existence.

Life is so short. Carpe diem. Live each day like it’s your last! I’ve been repeating/sharing those mantras since the oh-em-gee-pink-glittery-quotes-on-Myspace days of over a decade ago, without necessarily recognising their extraordinary definitions, nor the enormous enrichment that such philosophies can bring to otherwise redundant, fleeting moments.

They are indeed grand, glittery and potentially world changing ideations that we should all constantly aspire to. But what does it actually mean to do that? What does it mean to live each day like it’s your last? How do you live like you’re dying?

The people I’ve met have lead me to a conclusion that I will strive to rewrite. You can’t. Unless it’s actively happening to you.

It’s this fierce, new dimension, Absolutely. Fucking. Spectacular. raw appreciation of life: wide eyes at blooming flowers and too-big-for-your-face grins at the smallest tokens of kindness. It’s a spark that explodes into a firework and cascades, painting the world in the hues of your favourite colours.

It’s deep, poignant conversations: words punctuated with fearlessness that will be hoarded in hearts like treasure for years to come. It’s an embrace that lasts longer than ever before: warm and tender and desperate for eternal preservation.

It’s love, mind-blowingly sincere love: treasuring somebody entirely to the depths of their imperfect, grubby souls. It’s laughter: loud and hysterical, laughter that explodes out of lungs and bounces off of walls and infects everybody in the room.

It’s a trigger that forces the evaporation of all trivialities. It’s a yearning to believe in something greater, a yearning to matter, and a yearning to inspire others to do the same. It’s crippling vulnerability and heartbreak giving way to absolute empowerment and every superlative under the sun. It’s hours, minutes, seconds, even, worn like badges of honour, because there’s an explicit acceptance that time is running out.

I’m not sure I’ve witnessed anything more beautiful.

It’s a year. Six months. Three. At a push.

The best months of my life.”

People don’t expect you to feel in any way envious of somebody with a terminal cancer diagnosis, but I am. I’m so envious. To treasure every tiny moment with such ease: what a blessing it would be to see the world like that.Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog