“As a kid I was afraid of death, really afraid,” says New Jersey volunteer Shoshana Osofsky. “I used to be afraid to go to sleep for fear I wouldn’t remember to breathe while I was sleeping.” A former scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency and now a licensed acupuncturist, Shoshana took an interest in hospice work in her 40s. “I decided that one way of conquering a fear is to be in the situations that would arouse the fear. So I started hospice volunteer work.” When her life partner was diagnosed with a bone marrow disease that resulted in a steady decline until his death in 2000, Shoshana felt that her calling to do hospice work was in some way meant to prepare her to help him through his dying — and for the loss of “a really special person.”
A longtime member of Compassion & Choices, Shoshana started actively volunteering with the New Jersey team several years ago, offering support to the families of dying people. Not long after that, she encouraged her whole family to discuss their end-of-life plans: “My husband, my brother and my parents and I got together, and actually using Compassion & Choices resources we made our advance healthcare directives. It’s the kind of thing that’s so easy to procrastinate about, but doing it together as a family helped us all get it done.” She also plans to participate in the upcoming Lobby Day to support New Jersey’s pending death-with-dignity legislation.
She no longer views death with the same fear she had as a child, and instead sees it as a meaningful part of life. “I think as a culture we deny death,” she said. “We spend so much energy and so much money running from our fate. It makes more sense to me to accept death gracefully.”