I have been a hospice volunteer for about two semesters and I have gotten to know some of the most beautiful individuals. I have had the wonderful opportunity to make meaningful relationships with Mr. McBride, Anita, and Helena.
Mr. McBride is an amazing human being who has lived with many decades of history. He is an individual who had worked to build some of the first railroads, was a soldier during WWII, and was a prisoner of war in one of the most gruesome battles during that time period. He has shown me through our interactions that patience and silence are two aspects in life that aren’t often given much precedence. Mr. McBride is generally a quiet person, but he is extraordinarily witty and lucid for his age (he’s about 90 years old!). Though he is no longer under hospice and I do not get to meet with him anymore, I still fondly recollect the days where he sat with me in silence and reflected on life, especially after he would share one of his more personal stories. I believe I have learned patience and that some people take time to open up because they are hurting so deeply. In effect, sometimes saying it outloud makes it more true and hang heavily in the air.
My other hospice patient that I meet with is Anita. Though she is a person who rarely speaks, and is often lying in bed sleeping, I got the chance to meet with her personal caretaker, Annie. Annie told me more about Anita’s life and it was pleasantly surprising to hear that Anita was once a showgirl and gymnast who performed at Atlantic City with a company! Other than that, I learned just how important it is to be there for someone in the hospice program. Anita is frail and really enjoys being accompanied by someone as she sleeps or have someone run their fingers through her hair. She really enjoys that physical contact and affection that she probably doesn’t get when her family doesn’t visit. I think that in continuing to see Anita, I will be able to talk to her about what she fears in her age. She once communicated that she fears being alone and is haunted by shadows of people who aren’t actually in the room. I think in her loneliness, she becomes paranoid and hallucinates dark figures and it makes me wonder if she is afraid to die. I hope there will be a day where I can talk to her and comfort her about these things.
Last, but not least, my most meaningful relationship is with a patient named Helena. Helena is a wonderful and animated person who is not dampened by all her losses in life. She enjoys going through her past and memories of her beloved husband (who has passed), her siblings (who have all passed) and her grown children and grandchildren. Once again, I can tell just how much hospice helps Helena because she is such a cheerful and spirited person when there are people visiting her. There is so much joy and youth in her small frame. There was once a time when we had a dance party while we listened to some good music on the radio! I hope that Helena will continue to stay as lively as usual and really gains something substantial the way I do.