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Compassionately Embracing Abundant Life

Today’s blog is the first of several in a series of reflections on the 2018 Annual Symposium of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging. Dr. Ira Byock was the keynote speaker. He is the founder and chief medical officer of the Providence Institute for Human Caring. Ira has developed an enhanced “new normal” in whole-person compassionate care.

Beginning with Social History

Ira challenged Symposium participants to reflect upon a reframed traditional medical model of assessing a patient and their care needs as he shared stories of growing in compassion with former patients. Instead of first addressing medical issues, Ira began with a person’s social history. Seeking to understand the whole person led to a more complete assessment within the context of one’s life and disease challenges. This model offered insights into a person’s whole being, joys, challenges and spiritual perspectives that include one’s priorities, hopes and dreams. Ira affirmed that this method compassionately enhances care options from a medical, emotional and spiritual perspective.

By shifting to the importance of compassionate care within this expanded model, the essence of  a whole person seeking abundant life is understood from a broader reality of a person’s personal, family and community relationships.

New Model of Care

As a registered nurse, called into pastoral ministry and chaplaincy, I have a new role model in Dr. Byock, who addresses whole-person care, beginning with hospice and expanding into the importance of palliative care.

Framing this conversation around the profound understanding that in death, people have the potential to learn about the fullness of human life, Dr. Byock challenged participants to look more deeply into their own souls. He affirmed that all people have the potential for personal growth. He challenged everyone to remember that human beings are imperfect. The primary response then becomes growing into merciful compassion for oneself and others. Dr. Byock continued this conversation by sharing the foundational concepts from his book, “The Four Things That Matter Most.”

Life-Changing Experience

As Dr. Byock’s presentation ended, one of our sponsors commented on the powerful nature of the symposium and referred to it as “life changing.” He said that he planned to meet with his church pastor to discuss how this moving compassionate conversation might expand into a larger discussion within his congregation.

As a member of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging Advisory Board, it was our hope that our guests would be open to more deeply reflecting upon their understanding of abundant life. This expanded concept and gift of the importance of compassion brings the importance of whole-person care full circle. Ultimately, our lives are about living fully and richly each day, deepening one’s relationship with our divine Creator, Teacher and Sustainer.

Well With My Soul

As our day ended, I found myself reflecting on the old hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” penned by Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss:

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul.”

About Rev. Catherine Lawrence

Rev. Cathy is a registered nurse and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She is a lifelong learner who loves to read and enjoys nature. She is the mother of two adult children and has one beloved grandchild.

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