PRX Review: Hospice Chronicles

Hospice Chronicles

by Long Haul Productions 59:00

Review by Yolette Garcia 
for PRX (December 20, 2006)

“As our population grays and larger questions about health care and palliative medicine grow, “Hospice Chronicles” attempts to shed light at least on how we face death with community support. The producers, Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister, follow two hospice volunteers–Joe and Betty–as they are trained and placed with clients. Their stories are divergent, but give us glimpses not only of the clients, but especially of Joe and Betty. It takes particular character to spend volunteer time with people who are dying. 

Betty had worked in social services and was her husband’s caregiver, so as a volunteer she had a sense of purpose and clarity. Joe didn’t: all he knew is that he wanted to do good, and was a Buddhist on a journey. The surprising twist is that Betty understands impermanence better than Joe, but Joe has a secret he doesn’t disclose till the end. The sum of this documentary is who actually helps whom. 

The voices are brutally frank, vivid and moving, from Joe and his assigned client, Roger, to Betty and her 97 year-old client Mamie, who shuts down before us. As this documentary shows, human frailty and vulnerability deserve mounds of compassion. After hearing “Hospice Chronicles,” we know that death with dignity starts with the acceptance of life in all of its transmutations.”

Listen to the full program here


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