As a hospice chaplain, it’s Kerry Egan’s job to help dying people accept their own mortality. Sometimes that means sitting with them as they express their regrets and fears. Other times, she listens as they recount their life stories and reflect on the experiences that brought them joy.
“There’s no time to preach or teach,” Egan tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “You have to use whatever tools that person already has in their spiritual toolbox to help them come to meaning in their lives.”
Every patient is unique. Some find meaning in religion. For others, it comes from family, friends and relationships or in art and literature and music. “If you think about how different every single person who’s living … is, well, people are just as different in the dying process,” says Egan, who lives in Columbia, S.C.