It was a great experience to be a part of the Pre-Med Hospice Volunteer Program and every visit was very meaningful. However, the one that stood out the most was the interaction I had with James. I had arrived for an evening shift and I remember being asked to interact with James. The expression on his face was of boredom. James had been sitting in a wheelchair and as I began to walk away with him, I had been warned that he liked to pull on hair and had previously hit another volunteer earlier that day. I was a bit nervous because I certainly did not want to get hit nor get my hair pulled. I also was not sure how exactly to entertain him. I walked with him around the facility trying to find things that he would be interested in, but nothing I offered was intriguing. I finally ended up in the music room, where I offered him instruments to play with. But, again, he did not care to much for them.
Before leaving the music room, I became interested in trying to play the piano. I had previously played when I was younger and wanted to know if I had remembered anything. As I began to play, James’ expression changed, and he began to smile. I ended up spending the remaining hours of my shift playing piano for him and the entire time he listened with the biggest grin on his face. I really enjoyed and appreciate the time I got to spend with him.
Having this experience has shaped my understanding of death and dying in a way that I feel more at ease with it. Going into the program I felt that I was in a good place with the understanding of death, but yet I still felt fearful of it. Now looking back, I realized that I was fearful of it because I did not know how to approach it. This experience has taught me that in situations of death the most important thing is the comfort of the patient and family. I learned that comfort is different for everyone and even the simplicity of being there for someone, even in silence, can be very powerful.
During the course of my hospice experience, I feel that I have become more humble and appreciative for what I have. The work I did at hospice has ensured me of my career path. At times I would feel helpless and begin to feel frustrated with myself because all I wanted to do was help the patient, but I did not know how other than calling for help. The times I was able to help, the enjoyment I felt was better than anything I can ask for.