In my role as a Hospice Volunteer I have always been humbled by the graciousness of the families I served. I have felt blessed by my ability to be of service to others and had the same answer as so many of you do, when asked, “How can you do it?”. I would reply, “I get so much more than I could ever give.” Last year while taking care of my dear, sweet Dad in the wild winter land of Maine, I was so grateful for all my hospice experience. My son remarked, “Do you realize, Mom, that you have been preparing for this moment, when Papa would need you, all your life?” It’s the very reason you were drawn to Hospice all those years ago.” I’ve often said that as Hospice Volunteers we are drawn to the bedsides of patients to learn lessons they have to teach us that we didn’t even know we need to learn.
Last winter as I cared for Daddy I learned a lesson about the value of a Volunteer, even though I have been a Hospice Volunteer since 1991. I learned that it is HARD to need a volunteer, and even harder to accept one. I was convinced we could do it all with the help of my dear sister and brother in law, nieces, and the long distance support of my husband, daughter, son, and friends. I said, “No, thank you.”
I was learning that you can get by on very few hours of sleep; that there is a bitter sweetness in knowing that you are losing someone you have love your whole life; that it is essential to respect and honor all the losses of independence as one walks the journey from this world; and that patience IS a virtue that will come when you need it most.
Sharon, Daddy’s nurse had the agency call me and insist that I might want to “consider” a volunteer. They said I could just try it one time, for one hour, so that I could get out for that hour, and if I didn’t want to continue I didn’t have to. Cameron was the name of the angel that the agency sent to my Daddy’s home. I had a hard time leaving the house for my walk. I talked to this “stranger”, Cameron and cried when I did. I was embarrassed and didn’t quite understand what I was feeling. After a while I left and went for a brisk one hour walk on a 22 degree day down a snow covered road. I came back refreshed, revitalized, humbled and and appreciative. I accepted the volunteer.
When Cameron appeared at the doorway of Daddy’s hospital room near the end, I cried and he hugged me. When he came to Daddy’s funeral I was grateful and humbled once more. I was tempted, even though I knew the answer to breathlessly ask, “How can you do this?” As volunteers the answers, as you know is “How could we not?”