"She lifted my hand and kissed it."
What a wonderful feeling of gratitude I experienced while visiting a lady in the hospital! She appeared unresponsive. Knowing she was nearing the end of life I held her hand and told her I’d pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. (a prayer said nearing the end of life) As I began praying she lifted my hand and kissed it. With tears in my eyes I continued. This has been an unforgettable experience. I say thank you every day for the awe-inspiring experiences hospice volunteering has given me. Shirley Etmanskie
"We walk each other home."
I should be old enough by now to know that things often don’t work out the way I imagine. Most of the time, I am pleasantly surprised that they don’t. When I took my volunteer training in November 2019 with Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care, I had no intention of becoming a volunteer at the hospice. I thought it would be very interesting and I could use what I learned when I do become a volunteer for a long term care home. I was imagining myself volunteering for the home where my father and mother-in-law resided for more than two years, helping feed, keep company with, and wheel around in the garden the many clients who reside there. But no, not volunteering at the hospice.
I know the main reason I did not want to volunteer at the hospice was because I was afraid. Will I know what to do when someone dies? Will I know how to answer questions from a family member? How comfortable will I be with being present with people facing their death or the death of a family member.
Still, I decided to join the Therapeutic Touch Team and was ready to volunteer in people’s homes. When Covid came all of my imagining fell through and I found myself trying a shift in the hospice apartment instead. To my surprise and delight, I realized that I loved it. It felt so easy being there for other people. I felt comfortable assisting in providing physical care for the clients. There was nothing special to say, except answer to the needs of the moment. I enjoyed being able to contribute, if only a presence to the amazing transition that death represents for individuals and their families. I quickly came to understand that one of the rewards, beside supporting people, was the peace and joy I feel when all other preoccupations fall away and I am left with the essential: the moment.
But the rewards do not end there. I find myself being part of a greater whole comprised of staff and other volunteers working towards a common goal, learning to be of service in our communities. I had missed that feeling since being retired without even being aware of the loss. As expressed by Ram Dass, “ we walk each other home “ in the so many ways that are necessary for our individual and collective well being. I might still end up wheeling people around in the garden of a long term care home but meanwhile, may I continue being surprised by the gifts we give each other as clients, volunteers and staff of MVHPC. Diane Veilleux
"She was beautiful."
Sitting at the bedside of an elderly lady a few days before her death, I became part of her life for a very short time. During these few hours I cared for her by holding her hand, combing her hair ,arranging her blankets, offered her ice chips and moistened her lips. As I held her hand and watched her sleep it reminded me of how I used to love being with my babies as they slept. She was beautiful. Did my small contribution make a difference in her life. I believe it did.
MV Hospice Palliative Care Volunteer