Welcome! Thank you for visiting JoanPMaxwell.com. Because you landed here, you likely have questions about death and dying. Perhaps you are anticipating or dealing with a loved one’s approaching death. Perhaps you are facing your own mortality. No matter the situation, my goal is to provide you with content to help you understand and navigate these experiences in the most meaningful way possible.
Over the last century the dying process has become more medicalized on a physical level and less understood on an emotional and spiritual level. We know death is inevitable, but dying people are often hidden in hospitals and thus for many of us the spiritual aspects of the dying process are not well known. As a result, dying people often do not receive sufficient psychological and spiritual support from family and friends.
It’s time for this to change.
For twelve years I served in the Washington, DC area as a chaplain to hospital patients, many of whom were dying. For six of those years, I was the chaplain on the palliative care team at George Washington University Hospital, meaning my colleagues and I worked with patients with life-threatening illnesses. I was moved by my patients’ suffering, impressed by their courage and generosity, and awed by the grace-filled encounters they sometimes experienced. This work inspired my book Soul Support: Spiritual Encounters at Life’s End, which is a collection of real stories of my patients’ final days. It is based on hundreds of pages of notes that I typed each evening after leaving the hospital.
During this time, I learned that a lot is going on in the hearts and minds of dying people. Regardless of race, religion, and social status, many deathbed experiences have common elements, and knowing about these elements can help caregivers provide richer spiritual support.
The end of life is a sacred time. Being present with people who are dying is a sacred act. By sharing these stories and my learnings in my book and in lectures and workshops, I hope to help others find peace with being present with their loved ones as they move towards life’s end. May the tools and resources offered help you serve your loved ones more fully, and sustain you when you face your own final curtain call.
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Memoir of a Hospital Chaplain
A young dancer's last hope--a bone marrow transplant--has failed. A homeless man, in the final stages of AIDS, refuses to speak. A newly retired woman has just received a terminal diagnosis and is wailing in despair. What can we learn about death, dying, and the human spirit as we journey with a hospital chaplain into sickrooms like these?
Joan’s memoir offers intimate observations of people coming to terms with their final days. She offers a unique perspective as a retired hospital chaplain, of both the practical and emotional realities patients, their families and friends, and hospital staff deal with related to death and dying.