Vicki's Story: Why I Volunteer For Hospice
Written by Vicki Heilmann, Crossing Rivers Health Hospice Volunteer
I started volunteering for Crossing Rivers Health Hospice because I wanted to make a difference in people's lives. The end of life is just as important as the beginning of life. If I were facing the end of my life, I would want to have someone there for me to help make it through the changes that take place. That's what I do as a Hospice Volunteer - be that friend to the very end.
I like to get to know my patients by asking them questions and listening closely to their answers to figure out what they are passionate about. I also like to share about myself, so we can relate to each other. I share pictures with them - that usually creates a pretty good conversation, too.
Most patients just want someone to be with them through the stages that will occur in the dying process. I don't think anyone really wants to be alone during the transformation from life to death.
Occasionally, I have had patients that are not able to talk easily - such as stroke patients. I can still communicate with them by asking them close-ended questions that allow them to respond by shaking their head yes or no or by limited verbal responses.
I once created a questionnaire for a patient to respond and I filled in her responses. I asked her things that were important to her life and some history about herself. Even though this particular patient wasn't able to talk a great deal, I really got to know her very well in the months that I volunteered for her.
Little did I know, this time I spent with her would result in my writing and sharing the eulogy at her funeral. I admit that it wasn't easy, but it was one last thing I could do for her, her family, and her friends.
I think it takes a special person to be a hospice volunteer, but to me, you just need passion for people and a kind heart.
Below is a poem called "The Dash" by Linda Ellis. I particularly enjoy this poem because it takes you from the beginning to the end of life. In everyone's life, there is a great story.
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them. know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real and always try to understand the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash…would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent YOUR dash?
Crossing Rivers Health Hospice: It's about how you live.
Hear Vicki share a memorable event she had the opportunity to share with a hospice patient.