Serving as a Hospice Austin volunteer for just the past 9 months, I have already witnessed nurses, chaplains, department coordinators, nursing assistants, case managers, social workers and other volunteers skillfully and effectively serving the needs of others, always with loving hearts and the all-important recognition of the deep responsibility they carry for those who are so vulnerable.
It is humbling to work alongside of these special people in this outstanding organization. I initially signed up for volunteer training because of my own personal sense of call to serve those who are dying by providing a listening ear and supportive presence. After experiencing the high level of professionalism and depth of caring of those who taught at our training, I was even more committed to serving in this capacity. Being with the three patients I have been assigned has certainly shown me first-hand the profound effect hospice had in their lives, but the additional gift is the profound effect that each of those women has had on my life. I will never forget Mrs. G tightly clutching her rosary, or Mrs. C’s wonderful sense of humor, or Mrs. A’s “rookie” response.
My first patient, Mrs. A, was a delightful woman with such an easy presence about her. I approached my first visit feeling as prepared as I could be and just a bit fearful that I might not do or say the right thing. In our training, staff and long-time volunteers had shared with us that even they leave patients’ homes thinking about what they did or said that they wish they hadn’t. So I knew that I didn’t have to be perfect. I just needed to BE – to be present for Mrs. A. As we were visiting that first day, she asked me a question that I didn’t know the answer to regarding her hospice experience. I shared with her that I didn’t know, but that I knew how to find the answer and would do so. That answer didn’t feel adequate to me (although it certainly should have!) so I very gingerly said to her “Mrs. A, I think you should know that I just finished volunteer training and you are my first care-receiver. I’m afraid you have a rookie.” Without missing a single beat she smiled and said to me, “That’s OK. So am I.”
What a gift she gave me! She ever so gently opened my eyes and my heart to what we know intellectually but don’t necessarily take in fully: each of our clients and their loved ones are rookies in this stage of their lives. They don’t know their way any better than we do but they have asked Hospice Austin to come on this journey with them because we can help carry the light for this unknown path. Thank you, Mrs. A.
And thank you, Hospice Austin, for each of you, for the organization, and for the opportunity to serve others with you.
Hospice Austin Volunteer