face to face … with our own need

“Those of us who have spent time in the company of people with mortal illness have learned from them that we are always challenged to know more and to help more effectively but, above all, to listen.  Sometimes there will be no answers to give to those in apparently desperate situations, and we find ourselves with nothing to offer but silent attention.  People who are experiencing “soul pain,” as Michael Kearney describes it, bring us face to face not only with their need but with our own.  A feeling of helplessness may urge us to withdraw or to escape into a zealous hyperactivity which can well exacerbate the patient’s suffering.  There is also a very real danger that the caregiver’s despair of ever changing the situation may suggest the solution of physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia as practiced in Holland.” Dame Cicely Saunders in introduction to Mortally Wounded by Michael Kearney