When I tell people that I'm a hospice volunteer, the most common response is, "I admire what you do, but I could never do it."
So, I'd like to take this opportunity to explain why I'm a hospice volunteer:
- I have always admired those who do hospice work. Nurses, doctors, social workers and spiritual care coordinators. In my view, they are as close to angels as I am likely to encounter in this earthly realm.
- I felt drawn to hospice work because I saw it was a way I could apply understandings and skills I had spent a life-time developing - to listen deeply and to trust people to find their own best way, a belief that people can learn important things until the very end of life.
- I thought it was likely that hospice patients and their families would teach me important lessons that could support me in navigating that passage when my time came to do so.
"As a volunteer, I provide a safe place for clients to share their emotions, which they sometimes were unable to do with their own families who are struggling with the imminent loss of a loved one," she told me. "I learned to focus less on the illness and more on the things I could bring to their lives."
She also described personal benefits. Hospice volunteering, she said, "helped me realize what's important and to prioritize my life on a daily basis. And I've been able to use what I've learned to support friends and family who are not part of hospice when they have gone through illnesses and losses in their own lives."
My responsibilities at Arbor Hospice include:
- Helping patients of all ages and their families preserve family stories and other important memories on video.
- Co-leading bereavement groups for individuals who have experienced the loss of a loved one.
This blog entry was written by Dennis Sparks, Arbor Hospice Volunteer. You can contact Dennis by commenting below or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.