A Life Forever Changed – My Story as a Hospice Volunteer
Contributed by Aggie Gladbach, Community Healthcare of Texas Volunteer
It was late in the afternoon when I knocked on Nancy’s door. I’d been there before, but this was different. This time, I wasn’t there visiting my healthy, vibrant, energetic friend and golf partner, who I’d known for more than 20 years. This time I was there as a volunteer, a hospice volunteer preparing to walk alongside a patient and her family.
Nancy had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and understood her earthly life would soon be ending. She wanted to live her remaining days to the fullest and knew hospice could help make that happen. On that first visit, I arrived with my little red book in hand. It was filled with short meditations, and it would become a mainstay in our visits together. When I wasn’t reading to Nancy, we talked about old times and specifically our adventures on the golf course. We also shared stories, and she spoke endlessly about her children and grandchildren. Oh, how she loved her family!
As her journey leading to death grew closer, she shared her fears, doubts, and hopes. Some of the sweetest moments of our visits were when we’d join hands and pray. I’m not sure who experienced more peace – her or me. I treasured every moment with her. And, on a cloudy spring day, when I arrived for my final visit with my friend, I could sense she was ready and filled with the expectant hope of the peace that would come with her last breath. As I sat at her bedside, her eyes were shut, and she was barely communicating, but once again, I pulled out my little red book and asked if she wanted me to begin reading. And with a nod of her head and a slight movement of her mouth, she responded, “Yes .” I concluded our visit by reading to her one last time and then laid my hand on her and began to pray. I bid her a fond farewell and quietly left the room. As a cherished hymn reminds me, Nancy is now in a place where night is gone. There is no more pain, no more suffering, no more crying, never to cry again.
In 2010 when I stepped into my first hospice volunteer training class with Community Healthcare of Texas (formerly Providence Hospice), I could never have imagined where this experience would take me. Serving as a hospice volunteer has grown me spiritually – from listening to a patient’s story, interacting with another volunteer, or seeing a family lovingly cared for by our compassionate nurses – I’m forever changed.
Today, as I recruit and train fellow hospice volunteers, I sometimes hear, “Oh, I couldn’t do that.” My response is to remind them never to be afraid to try something that makes them step out of their comfort zone. Then I ask them to take the training, give it a try, and then if they find out they cannot do it, I will understand. This ministry is not for everyone, but many people who initially have doubts, discover it is incredibly rewarding and life-giving to the volunteers, our patients, and their families.
If you’d like to join the Community Healthcare of Texas volunteer team at any of our locations throughout North Central Texas, visit https://www.chot.org/volunteer/.