Volunteer Stories

Transitions

Birth or death? There was a birth certainly we had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death but had thought they were different. T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi When I was in my childbearing years and having my own babies I became fascinated by the strength, both physically and emotionally, that mothers inherently possess. During my work as a doula (birth assistant) I became aware that some of my fascination was in part due to the miracle of birth, the transition from spirit, or non-existent person, to a person who is now on the path of mortality. Perhaps I was drawn to be a hospice volunteer due to a similar fascination. The journey that a person goes through from an existing individual to spirit or non-existence. Birth and death tie mankind to the unknown. I have had the opportunity to support women and families in their choices during labour and to be included in their celebration of birth. For that I am extremely grateful. I hope that I can be of some comfort to those...

So Why Am I Here?

Recently, when another volunteer discovered that I live a 30 - minute drive away from the Langley Hospice store, she commented to me that “there must be something closer to your home that you could volunteer at instead of the Hospice”. So, why am I here? Three years ago, my sister-in-law’s Mom, Isabel, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. After several weeks of home care in my brother and sister-in-law’s home, Isabel was moved to the hospice care facility in Chilliwack. When I went to visit her, I was so impressed, the facility was beautiful! It looked like Barb and Gerri had put their own personal decorating touch on each room. The great room with its kitchen/dining and sitting area was amazing! How could a person feel so comfortable in a place where so many had come to spend their last days on earth. The care givers were unbelievable. I don’t know how they do it, day after day. Patient after patient. And, now, when I hear Pat (from our linen area) comment on a happening from her...

My First Year at Hospice

After having spent a year as a volunteer at our Langley Hospice Residence, I have been contemplating what this year has meant to me; what I have learned, and what I have been able to give.  I believe my hospice work actually started two years ago as I sat with my own mother at a hospice in Regina. It was then that I decided this was where I would volunteer. In the past I have served on numerous boards and committees. From all of them I have learned a tremendous amount, and worked with very dedicated, knowledgeable, and community minded people. So why is this different for me?  I am now privileged to be on a different journey. This is a journey where those we meet even for so short a time, need so little from us but give us so much. It is where simple things are important, like a cup of tea with a lady who just smiles and touches your hand. It is a hug, without words, or an opportunity to listen to a family’s story about their loved one. It is giving a grieving family time, care and...

The Hospice Experience – From An Office Volunteer

When I retired two years ago this month, I knew I wanted to continue to contribute to my community in some way. Having worked as a Public Health Nurse for 30 years, I had experienced the satisfaction and rewards of working with people to make a difference in their lives. At the same time, I wanted to do something that I didn't have to "carry home with me". Langley Hospice Society office receptionist is the perfect answer. I know I am making a difference each Wednesday afternoon when I answer the phones, type articles, enter data, put together folders for group sessions, fold brochures and even take out the recycling. I enjoy working with the staff who are always friendly and appreciate whatever I do. Learning new skills on the computer and mastering the simple phone system has been fun. I am also surprised each week to learn how rich and deep the Hospice services are and how many families and individuals who are suffering from loss are served. The staff are caring and creative in...

Recipe for Success

On a beautiful, calm Wednesday afternoon, I was welcomed into Dorscie Paterson’s home with open arms and a smile as bright as the sun. She is an esteemed volunteer for the Langley Hospice Society. With the warmth of Mother Nature around us, I asked Dorscie to explain her journey to hospice volunteering. She talked of seeing Elizabeth Kubler-Ross speak at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, as the topic of life and death “fascinated” her. Although this opportunity ignited her interest, it wasn’t until the death of her mother, however, that Dorscie really comprehended the weight of losing a loved one. “I remember a nurse gave me a bundle of my mother’s clothes as I walked out the hospital… I saw a man walking a dog, a woman driving a car… and all I could think was – don’t they know my mom just died? But of course they didn’t. I needed to talk about it but life was going on for everyone else”. The need to talk, to share her experience, to cry and be comforted; these were imperative to...

Hospice Volunteer Experiences

One evening I sat with a man who appeared to be sleeping. I stayed for a few minutes, quietly watching, before moving on to visit others. When I returned later, he was awake. I told him that I had come in earlier. He said, "I knew you were there". It made me realize that my presence was important to the people in care, even if not always acknowledged. One time, I sat with a woman while her visiting daughter shared memories of her mother. The stories revolved around the everyday actions of a mother. The mundane deeds and loving functions that showed how much her mother cared for her family. It was the little things that mattered most, in the end, and the daughter wanted me, and her mother, to know how much they meant to her. On another shift, I met a woman who had just arrived from England to be with her father. Once here, she was reluctant to leave the hospice, even for a short time, to get settled into her accommodation. Finally, she asked me if I would stay with her father while...

One Hospice Volunteer’s Viewpoint

I've been working as a hospice volunteer now since December, 2007. It was a choice that surprised many of my family and friends - my youngest son even said, "Mum, you won't be able to do that - you're too emotional"! But, that's what I'm doing, and I love it. It all started with my own grieving process ten years ago. My Dad, a vital, intelligent man, was struck down by a stroke during heart surgery. For three months he lingered in hospitals, while the family watched his body and mind slowly shut down. We felt helpless - unable to understand what was happening, unable to assist our father in his final leave-taking. The nursing staff was always changing. No one gave us the information we needed and we were unaware that hospice support existed. Nothing would have made my father's death easier to accept, but knowledge and support could have made his passage less fearful for him and less agonizing for us. After that experience, and ever since I learned hospice care services existed, I had...

Helping One Another

While doing my volunteer work at the hospice residence, I recently spent the better part of my shift visiting with a very discontented patient, whose health seemed to be getting worse day by day. This particular evening was a very lonely one for him – no visitors – and when he asked me to stay and talk, I naturally complied. Our conversation started about his family and as he talked, he began to act worried and distressed. I encouraged him to talk it out and very rapidly the conversation progressed into an intimate sort of emotional confession regarding his grown son. He had disowned this son over thirty-five years ago, and explained to me the circumstances leading up to their conflict. He knew he was going to die soon, and he wanted to see his son one last time, tell him how sorry he was and how much he loved him. He told me, several times, that it was his dying wish to do this. At first, I felt a reluctance to get involved in the “Family Dance”, but I was very emotionally moved by...

My Hospice Volunteering Experience

In 2002, I spent a month with my sister in a Duluth, Georgia Hospice. Gail was diagnosed with sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (rare, degenerative brain disorder) in mid-July and died in September. We shared a room growing up, as young women before we married and shared a room on her final journey. We had gone full circle. The Hospice was a warm caring environment for all family members and patients. It was this experience with my sister that eventually led me to look into what I could do for hospice here in Langley. I became a Hospice volunteer almost 6.5 years ago; I started off by helping with the newsletter. Then when a sewing group started, I was asked to join, although at the time I was not a sewer. I took sewing lessons and then quilting lessons. We make quilts for children going through the grieving process. When a child goes through bereavement support, either individually or in a group, he/she receives a comfort quilt at the end of their program. I also help out with...

A Spiritual Journey of the Heart and Soul

“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh If you are familiar with the Langley Hospice Society, there is a strong possibility that you have also heard of Thornton Smith. As one of our esteemed volunteers of the past fifteen years, Thornton has participated in and supported a variety of services and events. From serving as a past treasurer of our Board of Directors, to providing support in palliative and bereavement settings, and more recently, participating in the creation of our beautiful children’s garden – it is not exaggerating to state that Thornton has done it all. Thornton attributes his interest in volunteering to when he first began to lend his support at a residential home for the physically disabled in England. After he moved to Canada and created a lovely family, Thornton began to serve on our Board of Directors...

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