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In the Right Place

Chuck Watkins’ father

There is a reason I got the opportunity to be part of Hospice Austin. Hospice kept coming up in my life. First my grandmother had hospice care in San Antonio. She was at home and near the end, dealing with multiple cancers and emphysema. A hospice nurse was with us, and helped to explain what was going on as she passed. We could not have dealt with what was going on without the nurse’s presence. My grandmother was my last real link to my fathers’ side of the family. My dad had passed three years prior to this. He did not have hospice care because his colon cancer progressed so rapidly that he spent his last days in ICU. A couple of months after my grandmother’s passing, the mother of one of my best friends passed away in the care of Hospice Austin. I was compelled to volunteer at that time. I checked into training, but missed the training by a couple of weeks. The next training was months away, so I planned to check back. During this time my best friend’s father was struck with colon cancer, and he later passed away at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House. I was impressed again by the work that Hospice Austin did, and knew I wanted to be a part of such a good organization. I signed up for the next training session and waited for the first class. The first training was scheduled for 9-11-01. That day, I felt like I was kicked in the stomach, and all the things I believed were in jeopardy. I called Hospice Austin multiple times to find out if the training was cancelled, wishing that it was. I almost did not show up, but something compelled me to attend. I am thankful that I did. I was surrounded by caring people who were just as affected by the horrific events of that day as I was.

As I looked around at the other volunteers, I wondered if I was hospice material. I wanted to help, but I didn’t know if I would be able to do what needed to be done. Needless to say, I completed the training, and awaited my first patient. The volunteer coordinator called and had a patient that needed some assistance. I accepted, and scheduled my initial meeting for the following Saturday. This all seemed normal until I was briefed about the patient’s information. The patient had the same name as my father. However, the coincidences didn’t end there. He was dying from colon cancer, the same type of cancer that had taken my father. He also was a journalist his whole life, like my father. I am not trying to sensationalize these coincidences, but my first patient who had my fathers’ name, disease, and career is enough of a sign that told me I was in the right place. I visited the patient and we talked. He asked me to put up a flag in front of his house because of 9-11. I tracked down a flag, installed it in front of his house, and set up a flood light so that it could be seen at night. I left his house with an unbeatable sense of accomplishment. I am proud that in a small way I made a difference, and I am proud to be associated with Hospice Austin.

On September 4th of this year, I got a call from a friend letting me know that my best friend had committed suicide. She had struggled with her bipolar disease and unfortunately lost her will to survive. As I attended her funeral service, I received a call that another close friend had passed away. He had no family, so we went straight from that funeral to go plan for the next. I had a tough time with all of this, but because of my training at Hospice Austin, I was better equipped to handle these tragedies. Things happen for a reason, and this is no exception.

I have gotten more from volunteering at Hospice Austin than I could ever give back, but that won’t stop me from trying.

 

 

 

Chuck Watkins
Hospice Austin Volunteer


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