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Why I Volunteer with a hospice
By Patricia C Behnke
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Rated "G" by the Author.
The reactions to my decision to become a hospice volunteer were surprising
The questions and comments ranged from “Why?” to “How can you do that?” to “God bless you” when I announced my plans to become a hospice volunteer four months ago.
Hopefully when these folks have to face losing a loved one, they will be as blessed as I have been with positive experiences. Perhaps then they will understand why serving as a volunteer with a hospice speaks to me with the volume turned loud.
As the occasions of Mother’s and Father’s Days approach, I am reminded of the two people who raised me and how they were able to ease into their deaths with dignity.
When I took my hospice training, the coordinator began the session by telling us something her own grandmother had said to her: “If we are issued a birth certificate, one thing is guaranteed. We will also be issued a death certificate.”
My father was diagnosed with liver cancer the day after Mother’s Day in 1981. I remember it clearly because on Mother’s Day, my husband and I brought my mother-in-law to my parents’ house for dinner, and my father did not feel well. In fact, he had not felt well in months. He had an appointment with a specialist the next day to tell him the results of a myriad of medical tests. I also felt lousy, barely able to keep my dinner down. We took pictures that day. My father and I both look pale and drawn.
My father’s cancer had progressed to the point where neither the chemotherapy nor the radiation of the time would help. The following week I also went to the doctor to find out why I could not keep food down. My husband and I had been married for one year with plans to start a family soon, but not quite yet. However, God had other plans for us, and my diagnosis brought the first smile to my father’s face in quite a while. His only daughter was pregnant with his seventh grandchild.
Soon after my announcement, we decided to bring my father home. Hospices were not yet in existence in this country, but somehow my family and I knew that the tenets they hold now were the ones we wanted to possess to meet the inevitability of my father’s death. My four brothers and I arranged our work schedules so we could take turns being with our mother 24 hours a day when our father became totally bedridden. One day he called us into his room, and this man who had never been demonstrative during our lives asked each of us to touch him. He then told us each how much he loved us. We knew then the end was near, but because we had provided a loving environment in which my father could pass in his own way, he felt comfortable enough to express his love to us as his last gift to his family.
My mother lived for another 17 years. Her illness was brief — we did not even have enough time to become involved with a hospice. However, the people we encountered during that time again expressed the simple concepts embraced by hospices. My mother lay in a hospital in Michigan with double pneumonia while I lived in Florida. My sister-in-law asked the doctor when I should come, and he told her without hesitation, “Tell her to come now.” I am grateful the doctor made his pronouncement. I arrived the next day in time to spend the last few hours with my mother before she slipped into a coma.
With both of my parents, when they exhaled their last breaths of air, I stood at their sides holding their hands and praying for their safe passage from this world. I am very proud that my family allowed our parents to die with dignity and respect. It was the very least we could do for the people who gave us life.
After my father took his last breath, I walked outside into the sunshine. I felt butterfly movements in the area of my barely protruding stomach, and I knew that life’s cycle continued as the child inside of me made her presence known.
And this is why I volunteer with a hospice. If I can make one moment more pleasant or if I can help bring an atmosphere of dignity to dying, then I have truly been blessed to have traveled along one of life’s universal journeys.§
Site: Patricia Behnke
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|Reviewed by Richard Orey
|Dear Patricia and Authorsden members and readers,
As I approach my 76th birthday, the only way you can understand how much I value life is to read my posted poem, "Oh, Dear God, Tell Me Why!" It is an amazing story that fills me with wonder even to think about it. That poem tells of my miraculous beginning in life and why I can hardly believe that I am even here and, further, strengthens my belief that there is a purpose for every life.
In the years since, I have shared much of what life has to offer, including an astounding calling one morning when I was paddling my red canoe on a nearby lake. Suddenly, I knew that I should visit my only aunt a thousand miles away that I hadn't seen for fifty years. And so I did. When she saw me, she clutched my shoulders and sobbed, "Oh, I thought I would never see you, again. I just knew that I had been totally forgotten, even by God!"
In the next three months, I made the trip to see her many more times and talked with her by telephone every single day, which acts I was told later became the highlights of her fading life. This dear woman died peacefully in the kind environment of a caring hospice. Ever have I been thankful that I took the time to heed "the call."
It is from this perspective that I believe in my heart, my dear Patricia, that you are one of God's treasures on earth. Bless you for your volunteer work with the hospice. Acts of unselfish kindness do not go unnoticed by God. When we live with God in our heart, our future is to live in the heart of God.
|Reviewed by E.D DeLoach
|God Bless you. I am a caregive in Michigan. My maternal grandmother used the services of Hospice as she passed from a rare form of Melanoma Skin cancer. My paternal grandmother used a hospice agency in Florida as she slowly allowed God to take her. She passed away April 26, 2006 from a terrible relaspe in Breast Cancer that had spread all over her body. when ever a person has the pleasure of preparing for death Hospice services are the best way to go.|