Jill Lloyd of Irvine, California, has been a hospice volunteer for 35 years and also works as a part-time funeral director and celebrant – a surprising path considering she essentially grew up without death. “I was raised in Christian Science, so people don’t ‘die,’ and you don’t go to doctors,” explains Jill. “My mom died when I was five, and I always thought she just left because it really wasn’t explained to us what death was. I really didn’t find out the truth about what happened to her until I was 13, which was of course devastating because I had always held out hope she would come home.” That inspired Jill to learn more about her mother, including a four-year cemetery search through Southern California to find where she was buried, and about death.
The importance of respecting individual choices became clear when her father, still following the Christian Science faith, was dying, and Jill urged him to seek treatment. His response was, “This is my choice.” “I really got it,” said Jill. “It also helped me in hospice, dealing with different religions and family views. I learned to let people do what they want to do, what feels right for them. That really is my foundation, and I still follow that philosophy.”
Jill came upon Compassion & Choices when her best friend since fourth grade, Gayle – who had accompanied Jill on the cemetery search for her mother’s grave – received a terminal pancreatic cancer diagnosis the week California’s medical aid-in-dying law was enacted. “She knew her situation was not going to be good and that there was really no hope, so she talked to her doctor about the law right away. She was fortunate, because her physician was on board,” says Lloyd, who contacted C&C for information on using the law, and accompanied Gayle through the process and her final moments. “One of the things that Gayle said to me was, ‘I know you’re going to go on and do something with this; that’s who you are. And that makes me feel really good.’ Not that she was pushing any one option, because she also respected other people’s choices.”
Jill followed up with C&C after her experience to share it through our Storyteller Program and is now finishing volunteer training in order to do outreach in her community. “I consider it an honor.” Jill says. “When my mother died, I didn’t have any support. So if I can help a family make it a little bit easier through their most difficult day, I feel really good about it.”