Nancy Wakeman has been a supporter of Zen Caregiving Project for over 25 years. Here we explore her relationship with the organization, why she continues to support us, and her thoughts on the organization’s impact.
Nancy first heard about Zen Caregiving Project, then called Zen Hospice Project, in the early 1990s. It was a time of change and transition for her: she had lost two friends over a short period and had spent time caring at home for her father who had a stroke that was eventually fatal. During this difficult time, Nancy started to explore meditation and saw an announcement for the Zen Hospice Project Volunteer program, which combined her desire to explore and process her loss, her interest in meditation, and her drive to help others.
After completing the 40 hour Volunteer Program training Nancy volunteered for a year with Zen Hospice Project in the palliative care ward at the Laguna Honda Hospital. When asked what she had learned from the experience she shared her three main takeaways:
I learned a lot. I learned that everything changes in life. Even though I often assume there is stability in my life, I know that everything is still always changing.
I learned the value of being in the moment. And although you can’t always be in the moment, I am now more aware of when I’m not. When I am not being present to what’s going on right now I can become more judgemental and opinionated. When I am in the moment, I know everything is as it is, and I don’t feel I need anything else.
Finally, I learned the power of being with other people. We are all in life together and in a way, we are all one, even though we are all different.
Nancy has continued to support and donate to the organization as it has evolved and changed. She volunteered in the kitchen at the Guest House care facility, later supporting the organization as we closed the Guest House, leading to a greater focus on the education program and volunteering. When asked what moves her to continue to donate to the organization she shared:
I think sitting with people who are dying is really important work, as is supporting caregivers. When my father had a stroke, my mother and I cared for him at home with the support of a nurse. During the day it was my mother and I who cared for him, moving him in his bed, dampening his mouth with water, cleaning him. I understand first-hand how challenging caring for someone you love can be and how essential support is to those in that role.
It is so important to provide resources to caregivers because we, as a society, are reliant on having people in the community who are willing to provide care.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Nancy for her financial support of the organization across the years, her engagement with our mission, and her support of our staff and work.