San Francisco Update

I have been in San Francisco for almost 2 months and have yet to update my blog.  It is not with regard to the difficulty of finding a computer.  Rather, it has simply been a very busy time and often the last thing  I want to do is write a blog post.  Reading is often my comfort; or sleeping.  Either or.

So, I arrive in Pacifica on the evening of February 28th.  It seemed like it wasn’t even going to happen.  The plane from Victoria was cancelled.  Then they re-routed me and it seemed like I wasn’t going to miss the connecting flight in Vancouver.  Thankfully, that plane was also delayed and I was able to make it to San Francisco airport, albeit a bit later than I had expected.

I then, promptly, began work on March 1st.  The first week was rather intensive as Sr. Faustine had me shadowing all sorts of people to ensure I knew what I was doing and to know how everything works here.  I have been working hard since!

It is tough to envelope almost two months worth of stuff into one blogpost, and so I will just give the highlights of the whole experience:

  • It is a privilege to work at a place such as Gift of Love.  When one is working with those who are dying, it is a wonderful thing to help them along their way to God.  Some come in here very hardened towards God, but they die in His loving embrace.
  • We have had three deaths since I have arrived.  The first death was a man who was on his way here, but died in the ambulance on the way.  The second one was a man dying from AIDS.  When he first arrived he was in pain but reasonably mobile and self-sufficient.  But he trailed off VERY quickly and died within 2.5 weeks of arriving here.  The third one was here before I arrived and suddenly passed on last week.  It was a bit unexpected.
  • Working around death and disease makes you reflect on your own mortality.  A LOT!
  • There is a lot of community here.  Volunteers are coming here all the time and it is great to just play dominoes or other games with the residents whenever I’m on the floor.  There is never a dull moment.
  • I will never complain about the stench of garbage again.  Here I have encountered some stenches that are truly nausea-inducing.
  • The stench of the scents that I encounter here, however, is a good reminder of how horrid sin is.  It is, in fact, much worse than the stenches I encounter here, though our sinfulness focuses on the horribleness of the smell and forgets the horribleness of sin.
  • The sisters here are great.  Sr. Faustine is the one in charge of the hospice  and I get along great with her.  She has a great sense of humour and we have wonderful discussions and she takes really great care of this place.
  • Sometimes I have had to work a LOT.  I think during Holy Week and the Triduum I worked 80 hours.  But it is a work that you do not mind doing no matter how many hours it demands of you.
  • It is much different from Gallup.
  • I have a much nicer bed than I did in Gallup.
  • I have a reading chair here.  And there are couches as well in the common lounge.  That is luxury for the sisters.
  • We have a washing machine here.
  • Mass is at 7am here (to rub it in for my seminarian brothers who have to be in chapel for 6:30am).
  • Tomorrow we are celebrating the Silver Jubilee of the opening of the Gift of Love.  The Archbishop of San Francisco is coming to say Mass for us and I am going to be his MC.  No pressure.
  • It is amazing how attached one gets to the people who stay here.  I have come to love each man that walks through our doors for care.
  • At the end of the day, when I’m exhausted, tired, down, lacking joy, lacking patience, all I can do is pray.  Because prayer is the only possible response to everything that one sees here.  Prayer is the only thing that opens the human heart to God’s love.

-Harrison

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “San Francisco Update

  1. Pingback: San Francisco Update | Catholic Canada

  2. As an RN who has worked with palliative care patients, I appreciate and empathize with your post. It’s certainly not easy work but the fact that you have the blessing of starting and ending your day with Holy Mass and prayer puts your work in perspective. It is certainly God’s merciful work that you are doing. Please keep posting about your experience there. I look forward to reading them.

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