Last week at a Hospice Austin Volunteer Forum (an educational event held quarterly for our volunteers), about 20 of us were having a wonderful conversation with one of our doctors about the physician’s role on the Hospice Austin team when a visitor to the group raised her hand. “So, what do Hospice Austin volunteers do?”
There was a slight pause as the volunteers looked around the room at one another, considering her question. And then the stories began to come, first one and then another and another like multi-colored strands of yarn weaving themselves throughout the room, connecting us to one another in a brilliant tapestry of compassion, care, imagination, and love.
“I had a patient recently who loved libraries, shopping at H.E.B., and horror movies. We achieved our goal of visiting every public library in town and were working our way through all the H.E.B.’s in town. Every Friday afternoon I would bring her whatever horror movie Red Box had that week and then I would cower on the couch while she enjoyed the movie. We had so much fun together.”
“My patient makes dolls and so I help her gather materials and post videos on YouTube about doll-making. I’m also helping her clear out her garage.”
“The patient I’m volunteering for needs a ride to and from the clinic every week. We’ve developed a good friendship during these weekly car rides.”
“Once I visited a family whose baby was dying and they needed someone to keep their four-year-old daughter company. We drew pictures and read stories and ate snacks and spent some precious time with her baby brother. It was a very powerful experience.”
“I had a patient I used to spend time with so that his wife could go run errands. This gentleman had Alzheimer’s and was usually pretty lethargic. But he and I would play air guitar together. You should have seen his wife’s face when she came home in the middle of one of our jam sessions! She couldn’t believe her eyes.”
“When delivering holiday gift packs in December, by chance I met a Hospice Austin patient that is from my Dad’s little hometown, Ft Dodge, Iowa. We talked at length as if we’d known each other. Turns out we are two years apart in age and wrestled the same weight at different high schools in the state. This patient and his wife have become such nice friends. I attended their 40th wedding anniversary, and had them out for a boat ride on Lake Travis last weekend. We’ve spent a number of days just talking about life and experiences, some of the most pleasant times in memory.”
These stories, I wanted to tell her, are only the tip of a very large iceberg spanning more than 30 years and thousands upon thousands of lives touched by our incredible volunteers. Even though the word thank you doesn’t seem enough, we offer you our heartfelt thanks for all you do and for who you are.
Director of Bereavement and Volunteer Services
Do you have a favorite story about volunteering with a Hospice Austin patient, or with working with a Hospice Austin volunteer? We would love to hear it! Please post it below or send it to nmccranie@HospiceAustin.org.