Vocations: The Zen of Dying

Vocations: The Zen of Dying

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Preston Gannaway for The New York Times

Anthony Valentine, 72, is a hospice nurse at the nonprofit Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco.

Q. What is the difference between traditional hospice and Zen hospice?

A. The difference is the level and quality of attention the Zen hospice approach can give. At the Zen Hospice Project, our whole idea is to help dying people live fully right up to the end. Drawing on the principles of Zen Buddhism, we bring a strong sense of simply being 100 percent present, with, and for, them. As well, we focus on offering a healthy dose of compassion and a lot of personal touch.

Do staff members have to have a meditation practice or background?

No, one doesn’t have to be a practitioner of any Eastern philosophy to work or volunteer here. Nor, for that matter, do residents or their families.

What was your work experience leading into your current job?

My first career was as a flight attendant for 10 years. Based out of Japan, I worked routes from the Far East to Europe. Then, when I moved to San Francisco in 1980, I received a nursing license and practiced as a nurse for 34 years, after which I retired.

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