Embracing Family

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Young and old (continued)

The family is where death is encountered most intimately and profoundly.

How can caring for an elder be a field of practice? Consider all the fields of practice that can be encompassed in the act of caring for a loved one who is ill or dying.

Extending the familial spirit of tender care for the terminally ill, a number of American Buddhists have been drawn to hospice work.

Joan Halifax, abbott of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, offers a program called Being With Dying which provides family members and caregivers training in compassionate care of the dying, including care-based ethics, exploration of the relationship between pain and suffering, and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Compassionate care for the dying

Issan Dorsey, a Zen priest, became abbot of the Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco's largely gay Castro district just as the AIDS epidemic hit the area. His response to the suffering was spontaneous and courageous: "If your friends and students are dying, and in need of attention, you take them in." Dorsey himself succumbed to AIDS in 1990, but not before he had established Maitri Hospice Hospice (now Maitri Compassionate Care) next door to the Hartford Street Zen Center.