Year-End Reflection

The ability to make a connection with someone and listen to their story, passions, and experiences has always been a favorite of mine. Though my time with my patient “Thomas” was short, it was one of my favorite experiences of this school year. “Thomas” was a wonderful and caring soul! The love and energy he gave to those dear to him could be felt through the way his daughter, “Sam”, and family friends spoke about him. In my first meeting with him, “Thomas” sang for me and told jokes. He talked about his wife and company and shared pictures of his numerous and beautiful stained glass works. I learned that all the artworks that he made, with help from “Sam”, were given away as gifts to others. He used his time and talents to create things that would make others around him happy.
Since it was my first time meeting a patient, I was both nervous and excited. I tried to remember all the prompts and meetings we had as a cohort to prepare myself to meet “Thomas”. I never had a family member who was or is currently in hospice and had never experienced the death of a loved one. Regardless, I wanted to make sure that I did everything I could to make my meeting with “Thomas” positive and meaningful. At first, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to provide the comfort needed and wouldn’t know what to say. But as soon as I got there, and after hearing “Thomas” sing and tell his jokes, I started to feel more comfortable and relaxed. Our conversation was light-hearted but hearing “Thomas” talk about his life was a wonderful experience. Sadly, this would be one of the last conversations I had with “Thomas”. In my later visits, I could see that “Thomas” was getting more and more tired and was losing his ability to do certain things. It came to the point where he wasn’t able to create the stained glass works that he loved. I could also see how this was affecting “Sam” as well. It was now that the idea of death and losing someone felt the most real. Even with all the practice from Athena, experiencing it was still so shocking. I felt scared of saying the wrong thing and not being able to provide as much comfort as I wanted to. The inevitability of death seemed so consuming. However, I tried not to let my fear and confusion of death stop me from making a connection with “Sam” and “Thomas”.
In the upcoming weeks, I spent the majority of my visits interacting with “Sam”, as “Thomas” was typically napping during those times. I really enjoyed my conversations with “Sam”! I feel that the majority of my visits consisted of interacting with her. I listened and let her talk because I felt that that was what she needed the most. By the time of the funeral, I felt that I had grown closer to her. Though my meetings with her have ended, I will forever remember and be grateful for her willingness to share her thoughts with me!
Overall, my visits were an enjoyable experience. I have learned a lot from my visits and have grown as a person. My feelings surrounding death have been influenced by this. When I first applied to become a hospice volunteer, I had friends and family members who told me that the experience would be too sad. Though it felt sad at times, I never regretted my decision to become a volunteer! The connections that I built with “Sam” and “Thomas” were heartfelt and lovely.