by Basil O. Bristow, 11th Hour Volunteer
Friday afternoon I received a call from the Hospice Volunteer Center; a client was dying and 11th Hour teams were needed. I was able to cover the 6-10 a.m. time frame on Saturday at a local Assisted Living home.
When I arrived,the patient, whom I’ll call Mary, was comatose but, in my normal voice, I introduced myself. Her breathing was fast and raspy and her unfocused eyes, although blinking occasionally, were half closed and gazed towards the ceiling. I lowered my voice and continued to speak what I thought were comforting words. About an hour later her breathing changed dramatically to a slow, shallow non-rhythmic beat. Suddenly her eyes shifted, and fully focused, she looked directly at me, and I held her hand and continued speaking both silently and softly to her.
About 8:15 a.m. I opened the drapes that were covering her window and discovered that it was a beautiful day – blue sky, no clouds and a gentle breeze that moved the bushes and trees that could be seen from her room.
I told Mary what a beautiful day it was and described what I was looking at. I softly suggested that it was a beautiful day to go home.
Shortly thereafter Mary’s breathing changed again – many long intervals between breaths, still holding her hand I quietly suggested that all was well and that she had nothing to fear.
At 8:45 a.m. Mary took her last breath. I called for the staff and they took over.
A full hour before my shift was due to be relieved I left the facility and went home to breakfast. Saturday is normally my responsibility to take care of household chores. On this Saturday I did nothing. I simply went out into my garden, sat on my bench, listened to the water gurgling in the fountain and looked at that blue sky. I heard myself saying – “What a beautiful day to go home!” All day I kept saying that.
As I looked at the cloudless, wall-to-wall sun shine sky, I thanked God for allowing me the privilege of helping Mary to go home. I mused, I pondered no great thoughts; I simply totally relaxed in a kind of mini-vacation.
I realize that we all have different abilities and being an 11th hour volunteer is not for everyone. But, for me, I gain far more insight into life than simply sitting with a dying patient for a four hour shift – helping people to go home; especially on a beautiful day, is indeed a privilege.
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Nothing speaks louder or more sincerely than words that come straight from the heart. Below are essays written by patients, family and members of our staff. Enjoy and embrace the expressions of these caring people we are privileged to share our lives with.
The Dream Maker Tammy Summers Wolff, MSW
There Are Angels Among Us Anonymous
Essay for Hospice Barbara A. Huggins, HMC Patient
What Does Hospice Mean to Me? Chaplain Bob Greaves
What Caring is All About Bonnie Rhoads, RN
My Story Daneene Johnson, RN
Hospice Essay FP Homecare
How I Started at Hospice of Marion County Joanne Mancini, RN
Hospice Nurse KathyLee Johnson, RN
Walked in Their Shoes Liz Gauthier, RN
How I Came to Hospice Nursing Lynn Stamps, RN
The Hospice Symphony Marty Powell, Education/Health Dept
Why Hospice, You May Ask? Mery Lossada, MD
Hospice Means Caring, Hospice Means Sharing Sally Ann Dickey, Volunteer Services
Do You Believe in Miracles? SummerField Suites family member
Never Too Late…to Listen Chaplain Warren Thompson