People who peacefully face death
People who peacefully face death
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2007.11.05 00:00
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In our busy lives, we struggle with our relationships with friends, become obsessed with getting good grades, and worry about our future. With the flow of time, we tend to forget the fact that we will all die someday, somehow. Unlike us, however, there are people who patiently wait for death. They say that they are ready to end their lives with happiness and gratitude. To unveil the secrets of their resolve, two Ewha Voice reporters visited the Saem-mul Hospice located in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province on October 6.

Founded in 1993, Saem-mul Hospice is the first center in Korea to adopt a hospice program that offers a comfortable space wherein dying patients can live as normally as possible, with as much care as possible until death. Saem-mul Hospice cares for the patients who are diagnosed of terminal cancer and also their families. Because this hospice is free of charge to everyone, allowing each patient to stay for up to two months, there are many people waiting for their turn. “We help each patient pass their way peacefully by interacting with them spiritually. Rather than giving medical treatment; we let patients enjoy the remainder of their lives by singing and resting. Saem-mul Hospice is all about helping patients prepare for their death,” says Mun Yeong-suk, a missionary at the Saem-mul Hospice.

As it was founded by a church, religious services are held twice a day, at 11:00 a.m and 7:30 p.m., which makes the patients feel as if they are in a church. When we visited, the first service of the day started as usual. Like any other church service, people gathered in the hall to sing and pray together. The only difference was the pastor preached openly about death, or “moving into God’s house,” as he referred to it. However, no sorrow was to be found in the pastor’s voice when he shared with the congregants of the death of one patient the day before. The family members of the deceased look comfortable. Other patients waiting for their own deaths also calmly listened to the sermon.

“The reason why people here have such a happy face is because we consider death as a way to get closer to the Lord. Death is not a period to a person’s life, but a comma that proceeds to glorious eternity,” said Gye Gwang-won, who works at the center and take responsibility in managing the center.

A hospice is a shelter, not only for the patients, but also for the patients’ families who also go through a hard time. “It is easy to feel frustrated and depressed by the illness of a family member. Therefore, having a rest is also important to the patient’s family members,” says Mun. The center has facilities such as a shower room, computer room, aroma and physical therapy room, prayer room, and programs teaching gardening and drawing for the families as well as patients.

One elderly patient laid in her bed, asking a volunteer to get her some water. But no trace of fear or death can be found on her face. “When I was sick at home, I was scared that death was getting closer to me. For me, this center is like a heaven and I feel like I finally found some peace. Now, I am not afraid of dying because the Lord is to be with me when I die.” said the patient.

Volunteers at Saem-mul Hospice are educated for six weeks and have additional trainings for 48 hours before becoming a regular volunteer. “I have been working here as a volunteer for three years. At first, I was so afraid of seeing people die, which made me feel depressed for a while. However, while working here, I came to think about what life means to me, how to live the rest of my life and how to prepare for my own death,” said a 57-year-old volunteer, who wanted to remain anonymous.

There are also some irregular volunteers who work from time to time. “Death always seemed irrelevant to me. However, when I saw a patient who was only nine suffering from cancer, I realized that anyone can die suddenly,” explained volunteer Kwak Eun-hye (Yeojoo University, 2). Joo Eun mi (Yeojoo University, 2), who began volunteering last December, said, “We always receive more from the patients than we give them.” Joo says that she actually found so much comfort in the patients’ faces even at the last moment.

Saem-mul Hospice is also planning to receive patients who are suffering from AIDS. By expanding the range of patients they are taking care of, Saem-mul Hospice will continue to be a shelter that helps people face death peacefully.

By Kim A-hyun

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