George Merrill was a human treasure. Many reader’s words expressed this in the Comment section of The Spy following his essays this last year and were certainly evident at his memorial service.
I would like to add my own memory of him when he was employed as the Chaplain for Talbot Hospice in the late 1990’s. It was a great match for his interest in loss, aging and dying and Hospice’s mission which includes the spiritual meaning of life as it begins to come to a close.
George’s segment of Volunteer Training was, as you can imagine, a participatory, deep dive into self-examination and shared experiences. As in his writing this last year, George was very open about his own personal experiences. Most people had never delved so openly or intimately into how they interpreted the meaning of their own lives and what loss would look like for them. He was truly interested in the experiences and thoughts of others. You knew that George was as much a listener and learner as he was teacher and guide. It deepened the compassion and understanding of the journey of Hospice patients and families for the prospective volunteers.
Like these volunteers, many, many members of the community were privileged to also make the deep dive into self examination of the meaning of their own lives and attitudes toward loss and dying on Sundays when reading George’s reflections.
George is no longer with us but he has written indelibly on our hearts. And fortunately, Hospice, which many of you know is important to me, is always here as the people who continue to discuss, share and comfort the fear of loss of oneself and the loss of a person we love.
Liz Freedlander was the first executive director of Talbot Hospice.