Cover image for When evening comes : the education of a hospice volunteer
When evening comes : the education of a hospice volunteer
Andreae, Christine.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
viii, 213 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
R726.8 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

On Order



When Christine Andreae signed up for twenty-seven hours of patient-care training with the Blue Ridge Hospice in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, her parents were still living and her grandparents' funerals hadn't involved a viewing. Her only direct experience with death had been when, at the age of six, she had gone with her father to the viewing for the family's parish priest.

At a training session, the leader passed around a tray of small objects and asked participants to choose one that represented what they felt they could give to a dying person. Christine randomly took an old-fashioned key, for no reason that she knew. And when it was her turn to speak, "feeling like a liar" she stammered something about "opening doors to people." Looking back, she says, "Perhaps what I wanted was to open a door for myself."

In its directness and honesty, this beautiful book about accompanying the dying is far from saddening-instead it is truly inspirational in the best sense. Starting with Bivie, her first patient, then going to the very different Amber, and to several others whose need for care was more short-term, the author began to see terminal illness not as some dreaded "thing" hovering in the distance, but as an "everyday" reality. She learned that because the dying continue to live until that final day comes, daily activities continue, tapering off gradually. The mothers among her patients wanted to care for children and households, to manage their affairs, or to pursue other interests-one, for instance, wrote (very bad) poetry. They wanted to continue doing the things they did before their lives were interrupted by illness (in most of Christine's cases, cancer).

Contrary to the ideas so many of us have about our behavior in the face of terminal illness, the dying do not welcome people tiptoeing around their illness and offering solemn sympathy. They want things to be as much like they had been as possible. And they need someone to be there, to talk to, to listen to, to gossip with, and sometimes, of course, to complain to. When her first patient, Bivie, died, Andreae wrote:

How presumptuous I was at the outset, thinking that I could somehow "help" Bivie die! Ultimately, the process of dying-like the process of living-is a unique and solitary task for each of us. No one can "get it right" for us. On the other hand, we can bear witness to each i0other's passages. At birth and death, we can hear each other, love each other, learn from each other. And there is the most profound help in that-for everyone present.

Author Notes

Christine Andreae lives with her husband in Bentonville, Virginia. She has been a hospice patient-care volunteer since 1990. "Bivie," the first section of this book, was privately published in 1995 as One Woman's Death by Blue Ridge Hospice. Andreae is also the author of a highly praised mystery series and of last year's thriller, Smoke Eaters.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

For those still confused by the hospice concept, Andreae, who has volunterred for a decade at Blue Ridge Hospice in rural Virginia, imparts some idea of what hospice programs are and are like. Most of Andreae's 15 patients, however, spent their final days and died at home, and as a detailed account of dying in a hospice, Tim Brookes' Signs of Life (1997) is more helpful. Still, Andreae writes movingly and perceptively of her patients and herself, and even tells stories on herself. Hospice care changes everyone involved, she shows, not least because dying is a process, not an event, and its needs are as likely to appear late at night as at more convenient hours. She volunteers because she loves the work despite hospice patients, their spouses, and their families being no more lovable or saintly than anyone else. She is realistic and knows that pain cannot always be controlled and that rejections by patients occur. Ultimately, she demonstrates well the values of a successful hospice program. --William Beatty

Library Journal Review

Andreae's experiences as a freelance writer and mystery author (Smoke Eaters) are evident in this account of her experiences as a hospice volunteer with female patients in the last stages of cancer. Hospice volunteers work through a local agency and provide support for families when their members are dying. Written in a very readable diary format, this book traces the author's experience from rank newcomer to seasoned volunteer. She reveals how the experiences helped her to grow and how she was able to assist the families to whom she was assigned. The first chapter, "Bivie," was privately published as One Woman's Death: A Hospice Volunteer's First Case. This book is valuable for helping us understand the work hospice volunteers do and some of the problems and issues they face. A useful addition to consume-health collections.DMary J. Jarvis, Amarillo, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.