My First Hospice Experience

Recently in between semesters at college, I decided to take up volunteering at a local Hospice.  My thoughts were “If I could not secure a job between semesters I could at least try to better myself by volunteering for my community. Maybe I could pick up experiences that would make me grow as a person and grow my resume.”

Going into the experience I was virtually clueless of what to expect; I was 21, young and still ambitious talking to poor souls on their death beds that had probably been drained of any ambitions and aspirations years ago.  Yet I was determined to learn something valuable from my experience.

Pulling up into a low income nursing home, I gazed up at the imposing structure before me; I questioned myself “Is this the finally fate of those individuals who were not so good and didn’t die young?”  Getting out of my car I grabbed my briefcase as every good business student should and checked my contents.  “Book, pens, planner. . . .alright.”  And so I headed into the three-story building that looked less like a home and more like a prison minus the hoards of sailor cursing inmates and guards.

Inside I found the place to be considerably livelier, there was background music in the lobby you would expect in an elevator setting playing tunes reminiscent of the days of Sinatra and fake flowers galore.  I checked into the main office where a lady not much older than myself greeted me.  She had an amble suttle body—not too skinny but not too fat, soft brown glowing hair and a face that radiated natural beauty.  Upon seeing her appearance I immediately wished that I would have wore better clothes to make me too look more professional and some cologne.

Trying not to embarrass myself I quickly explained the business I had at her prison where I wished she would lock me away and bath me for a change.  She lead me to my patients room and left me at the door.  I knocked and quietly asked “Mr. #$#$#, my name is Julian I am a volunteer from ____________ I was wondering if it would be okay if I might have a few moments of your time?”

I was met with silence. . . . .and I an inexperienced hospice volunteer began fearing the worse.  The patient I had come to visit had passed.  But before I could start saying my prayers for the old soul I was greeted with a gruff weak voice “Yes, come in.”

Feeling relived I smiled happier than ever I would have a chance to talk to this man and perhaps even make his life better in some way.  After all I did not necessarily volunteer purely out of my own self-interest I whole-heartedly wanted to be useful and help others in their ultimate time of need.  So I entered the room and took a seat beside the man.

“So what do you want to know.”  The old man gazed at me seriously.

“Well sir I am here to visit you, what are some of your interests?”

The man dogged my question and asked one of his own.

“How old are you?”

“21.”

“21, where do you go to school?”

“I go to Central Michigan University”

“How old are you?”

“98”

The conversation continued about 10-15 minutes with periods of silence before the old man kindly told me he was all talked out and we bid each other farewell.  Although our period was brief I took away a lot of important insights.  I personally recommend anyone looking to learn take up volunteering; each experience is different but the payoff is always the same: you never leave unchanged.

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