Laura Lepine, Hospice Volunteer, shared these thoughts at the Service of Remembrance on May 24th. Many who attended were touched and took a heart-shaped stone with them that night.
The Gifts We Are Given
The gifts I have been given since becoming a hospice volunteer fill my heart with gratitude for the privilege of being present for our hospice clients, their families and friends. Examples of things that are done – could be walking a dog, washing dishes, preparing a meal, running errands, or simply “being present” and sitting quietly and keeping someone company.
For example – the woman in her 90’s who didn’t talk very much, while she was watching me knit one evening told me that she remembered her grandmother knitting – what a sense of time and place – to imagine her grandmother who would have been born in the mid 1800’s and my client born early in the last century – and all of the changes that have taken place in the world during those years. She and I had some really great conversations after that.
There was the woman who told me that she felt like she had one foot in this world and one in the next. And who was not at all afraid to die – in fact she said she was ready for the next step, but it was taking an awfully long time to get there. And she really liked a good strong hug – that’s how we ended each visit.
Another time, an “I love you” from a man in a nursing home, who was in the last stages of dementia. I believe he thought I was his daughter, but that was okay – and I told him that I loved him too. He died not long after that. We shared a special bond and it was my joy to be with him and visit him when his family was unable to.
There was the gift of witnessing a calm and peaceful death as a woman I was visiting took her last breath while I held her in my arms. After she died, her family shared many remembrances of her. There were tears, but there was also laughter and at one point her grown children started singing songs that they recalled from their childhood. The love of her family was very much in evidence – another gift shared.
I am one of a devoted group of volunteers who gather twice a month to create shawls that are given to anyone who might benefit from their comfort. These shawls are made with many warm loving thoughts. And the shawls themselves take many paths once they find their new home. For example - A shawl had been given to one of our clients and when I went to her funeral, her husband brought me over to his wife’s casket and said – “Look what’s going with my wife. She loved that shawl and it’s going with her.” Others have been passed along to family members or friends. And in each case there are a multitude of memories that go with each one. Just as we think positive thoughts, meditate and pray, each in our own way when these shawls are being created. Another connection that I have to the people I have served.
There is the gift of the heart shaped rock, I first discovered one of these at a client’s house. I wasn’t aware that these existed and when I told a good friend about my “discovery” she smiled and gave me a poem she had found about them. After my client died, while mourning her, I went to the beach one day and there in front of me – the first thing I saw on the sand was a heart shaped rock – it was as if she was saying that she was okay and everything was going to be all right. So these heart shaped rocks for me personally have become something that is a thread that ties things together – helping us to be open to see things a little differently.
All of these and many others are examples of the gifts that we are given as hospice volunteers, ones that I personally treasure and hold close to my heart.