Several weeks ago, I spent the day participating in portfolio reviews and giving a lecture on Entering the Fine Art Market to students and photo enthusiasts at Long Beach City College. After the lecture, several audience members approached me with their work. Diana Hershey was one of them. In a small envelope, she pulled out images from her work of thirteen years as a hospice nurse. These were stunning testaments to life, to love, and family connections. Diana was given permission by the dying to remember them with her lens.
Capturing people in the act of living their everyday lives has long been my interest, and for years my photography has been a part of my compassionate work with those who are living with dying. What you will view here is a small compilation, taken from the many photographs I have been privileged to shoot during my thirteen years as a hospice nurse. These photographs are a journal which captures the essence of these precious fleeting moments, allowing us all to eavesdrop on those who are living at the end of life.
After raising 4 children, Diana started college and persue her dream to work in hospice care. Caring for her own dying parents gave her a clear view of the importance of hospice care. She now lectures on her passion, using photography, music, and poetry to educate nursing students on end of life care. I carry a caseload at any given time of 10 to 15 patients (and families), and have probably 50 every year if I’m lucky, and 75 or more if I’m not (short stay).
I aksed Diana how this work impacts her life:
It has been an amazing journey to be sure, and for those patients and families who are able in mind and spirit, there is much to be learned as they near the end of life. It has been an honor and a privilege to walk beside them, and to gain their trust during this most delicate and intimate of times. I have learned to care for myself and to value my own life and the lives of those I love in a different way then I think I would have had I not been involved in this work. It is a never ending journey where I get back far more then I could ever give. It is often emotional but rarely depressing. My days are never boring, and are filled with moments which can be both irreverent as well as sacred, joyful as well as heart wrenching, and both physically exhausting and spiritually uplifting at the same time. I never cease to be amazed at the grace that so many of my patients and their families exhibit as they live each day until their last day.
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Thesis Project: Paula LycanMay 9th, 2020