Joys and Sorrows of a Hospice Volunteer

I was looking for something new in my life. Something to do where I could make a real difference. One day, my attention was caught by a church notice stating that a Hospice speaker would be sharing her experiences. I was interested so decided to attend. After it was over I asked her, “Would I be able to share my faith?” She assured me that Hospice was very happy to answer people’s spiritual questions or any other kind of question, so if someone asked me something about faith, I could answer. My decision was made I signed up for the training.

Let me tell you a little about what Hospice is. I volunteered with Fox Valley Hospice in St. Charles, IL (now named Fox Valley Hands of Hope) Here is a description from their web site:

Originally founded in 1981 as Fox Valley Hospice, the organization remains dedicated to providing practical, spiritual and emotional support to individuals and their families who are dealing with loss of life. Supported entirely by the community, all care is available without charge regardless of age, income level, race or religious beliefs.” (1)

The teacher at my first training class was so interesting and informative, my attention was riveted. I didn’t want the class to end. I learned things that in my heart I knew were true. In my word press bio, I mention that I didn’t have any real experience with death and dying until I was an adult with a baby on the way. This was one of the reasons I was interested in Hospice, I wanted to learn as much as I could not only to heal my own wounds but to help others with theirs.

By the time I graduated from the class and became a direct volunteer, my baby had arrived. My advisors encouraged me to take him with me. My little guy cried a lot and I wasn’t so sure this was a good idea but I packed him up and off we went. He screamed all the way there. I prayed, “Dear Lord, I need some help.” Andy was still crying when I turned off the car and got ready to go in. Miraculously, he stopped when I picked him up and headed for the door.

Bette was a wonderful lady who was obviously very ill. While we visited, she asked to hold Andy. She was very glad to talk to me she said, because her husband and daughter hospice in altadena  wouldn’t let her talk about her dying. They would tell her, “You are not going to die, Don’t talk about it.” But she said she knew she was and had things to say.

I was glad to listen and talk with her about her illness. As the days and months passed, Bette and I became friends. Because I had gained her trust, Bette talked with me about some guilt she was feeling. I was able to encourage her to forgive herself and others who had hurt her.

One day when I was visiting, I could tell by her peaceful face that something was different. “What’s going on, Bette?” She replied, “I forgave myself and the others and now I want to be baptized.” I was happy for her and helped her work out the details, The arrangements were made. She was too frail be immersed in water as she hoped so the Hospice chaplain baptized her in her bed in her own home where her family was gathered. At the ceremony’s conclusion, she beamed a bright smile at everyone.

When Bette died, I grieved. I also felt joy to know she no longer suffered. I rejoiced that Bette’s goal to talk with her family about her feelings regarding her death was realized. I volunteered with Hospice for five years serving several families. Each one, unique. I felt I made a difference in each family I supported. It was hard work in many ways, but rewarding in many more. I think those families helped me more than I helped them.

 

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