On the surface, Eric Lindner seems an unlikely hospice volunteer. He’s a high-powered lawyer and former top executive with Colonial Parking, one of the world’s largest privately held parking companies. But Lindner “always knew I wanted to be in the trenches of a nonprofit. I’d looked at a number of things, but nothing seemed to fit.”
One day in 2009, walking to buy coffee and a muffin, he passed a tiny hospice. “I’d lived in Warrenton, Va., for 20 years and never knew it existed. Something compelled me to go in and ask what it was all about.” On his first visit as a volunteer, he met Bob Zimmerman. “He had cancer and Alzheimer’s, but he spoke six languages and had served in the Peace Corps in Vietnam in the early days of the war. I was floored and humbled and knew I had to do this.”
Hospice Voices: Lessons for Living at the End of Life (Sept.) documents Lindner’s years as a volunteer at that tiny hospice and the extraordinary people he met. There’s Little One, a Mono Indian, who educates her granddaughter via an “epistle” she dictates from her La-Z-Boy recliner; a sharpshooting, turnip-growing, mink-trapping Marine; an alcoholic cowboy and his pistol-packing daughter; a former buttonhole seamstress from Brooklyn; and the gardener for the world’s richest man.
Lindner admits, “Before each visit, I’ll often mutter about being too busy or not wanting to go, but after each visit, I’m rejuvenated with spiked levels of intensity, consciousness, and happiness. I think people hesitate to volunteer because they’re afraid of messing up or think they lack skills. Yet all that’s required of volunteers is their authentic presence—something hard to find in the age of 10,000 Facebook friends.”
Once the idea of a book had taken root, Lindner was “determined it wouldn’t interfere with my volunteer time and that I would chronicle as a friend, not as a clinician or journalist.” And he’s equally determined to “give credit to Rowman & Littlefield editor Suzanne Staszak-Silva and writing guru Alexandra Shelley for “taking a rough bundle of ideas and having patience and talent to work with someone who lacks both.”
Lindner, who is donating 100% of the book’s profits to hospice patients, families, and charities, will be at the Rowman & Littlefield booth (1125) today, 2:30–3:30 p.m., signing samplers of Hospice Voices.