"My Terminal Disease Won't Stop Me from Helping Others"
I was diagnosed with a rare immune system disease in 2007.
Then in 2009 it became worse, with my liver failing. Since then, there have been a variety of other issues. Ultimately, this a terminal illness. So, you may wonder, what does this have to do with anything? Well, it leads down a winding path arriving at present day, and it is the reason I am writing this blog.
After the years of fighting the disability, the fatigue, nausea and lots of other issues, I conceded the fact that the disease was not going anywhere. And in 2015 it became clear to me I needed to go on medical disability. About the same time, I ran into a long time friend, and recently retired Horizon Chaplain, Fletch Simpson. Fletch and I have known each other for many years, and he understands my strong personal feelings towards the value of all human life and that God has put each of us here to be of service to each other. Fletch suggested I volunteer for Horizon hospice as a way to focus my interests. So I did.
People ask me why I spend my time as a hospice volunteer.
Having a medical disability, it becomes obvious that when one is no longer thought of as productive, he or she may feel shifted to the side of life’s road.
I believe I see that look in the eyes of many dealing with disabilities, especially end-of-life issues. Many feel guilty for inconveniencing family members or not being able to attend family and other events. Many feel poorly that life seemingly goes on without them.
As a result of these thoughts and experiences, I am thrilled, as a volunteer, to be someone who is able to remind people they are still valued, important and respected. Some patients need a friendly reminder that there are wonderful hospice volunteers who understand that and are willing to give their time, skills and service for someone who desperately needs to know that they are okay.
I share with them a lesson I’ve learned in my own illness journey. Simply put, we are all on our way to hospice. All at different rates and different dates in the future, but that the only difference between the people I visit and me is that they beat me there. Moreover, it’s important for me to let them know that people care, have noticed, respect them for the lives they’ve led and want to be a part of assisting them in this, their final journey.
In writing this blog entry, I cannot help but remember one client.
He was in his late 80’s with Alzheimers, and his wife had passed away. As I prepared to leave one day, he said “I'm going with you, to your house, to live." I reminded him that the people at the campus would miss him, and he needed to stay. All of a sudden he jumped up from his wheelchair and, leaning on furniture, started heading for the door. I quickly hustled him back to the chair since he was a fall risk. He told me he wanted to come live at my house where we could spend our time together, that I was fun to be with, that he trusted me. He thought, since they wouldn’t let him out if they knew who he was, which was certainly in a wheelchair, he would walk out so no one would notice him! It was all I could do not to cry and laugh at the same time. As Terrence, Horizon's volunteer coordinator, knows, I call these my "volunteer paychecks." I will never forget that man or the times we spent together.
People simply want to feel cared for, respected, valued and safe. As volunteers at Horizon, we provide all of that and more. And for that service, we get our "volunteer paychecks." I have no doubt that I am the one who really benefits, and I always walk away with more blessings. And, as someone who it appears will end up in the same place at some point in the future, I am relieved there are all of you out there!
If you are in interested in volunteering for Horizon, reach out to us at any time.
Manager of Volunteer Services
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