The Hospice Hug

By John F. Tomczak

Peggy McDowell, now retired, was a nurse at Victoria Hospice in the early days of the society. She tells the story of the first Hospice Hug.

“Well it was like this. One afternoon I noticed that Doctor Jim looked a little down. He didn’t say anything but I could tell that he needed something to raise his spirits, so to speak. I told him I was going to give him a hug because he sure looked like he needed one. So I put my arms around him and gave him a good old-fashioned Irish hug. Doctor Jim is a fast learner and I got a great hug right back. Well, that was the beginning of the Hospice Hug. The word soon spread, first to the nurses, then the volunteers and to the rest of the staff. I still give my own particular brand of an Irish hug every chance I get.”

Peggy is a good friend of mine and I can assure you that a hug from Peggy is a hug you will never forget.

I was introduced to the Hospice Hug when I became a member of Walking Group 4. I noticed that the volunteers always asked if I wanted a hug. I really appreciated being asked and I was soon an accomplished “hugger.”

Ever since Claire and I became volunteers in the Walking Group Program we have been giving demonstrations of the Hospice Hug. Claire’s friend Roger gave her a hug coupon that he had received from a friend. The volunteers have been using this coupon ever since as an introduction to the Hospice Hug. The coupons are free and never go out of date.

Some people are bit shy or even reluctant to hug a person they have just met. The traditional Hospice Hug greeting between volunteers sets an example for the new walkers. We have ceased being amazed at how soon the walkers look forward to that Saturday morning hug. Some people who, at first, preferred to have a handshake, in a few short weeks become enthusiastic huggers.

There is more to a Hospice Hug than just two people with arms around each other for a brief moment. When I hug a person I am letting them into a little bit of my world. I am saying to them that I am open to them. I want to share a brief moment of their life just as I am sharing mine with theirs. I am letting them know that I feel for them and I share their pain and also their joys. I want them to know that they can trust me with their story and I can trust them with mine. Perhaps it is because I have received so much from Hospice and from those I met in my walking group that I feel a simple touch with another person can imply gentle affection and acceptance.

The Walking Group Program at Victoria Hospice brings folks together at a very vulnerable time of their lives. The volunteers provide a safe, respectful and gentle environment where expressions of affection, comfort, understanding and support become a part of their lives.

The Hospice Hug is the first step.

I don’t remember when or where I received this explanation of “Hugging” but it is a good one:

Hugging, the perfect cure for what ails you. No movable parts, no batteries required no periodic checkups, low energy consumption, high energy yield, and inflation proof. No monthly payments, no insurance requirements Theft proof, non taxable, non polluting. And of course, fully returnable.

Hugging is healthy, it relieves tension, combats depression, reduces stress and improves blood circulation, AND it has no unpleasant side effects.

Copyright John F. Tomczak. All rights reserved