If you knew today would be the last day of your life, how would you live it?
Many might imagine themselves emptying their bank accounts, splurging on an over-the-top dinner and night of frivolity in a last grasp at indulgence. Others possibly envision doing something taboo because they wouldn’t be around to suffer the consequences. Many see themselves scrambling to check off items on their “bucket lists.”
I think these are fantasies. Daydreams. In fact, I believe most of us actually would spend our final 24 hours with just a little bit more of what we already have. A little more love. A little more time spent with friends. A little more family. I don’t think we would change much. We probably would call everyone we cared about and tell them, “I love you.”
Hospice care offers us this closure.
It’s pretty much a fact that bitterly cold winter days are made infinitely better by a bowl of soup, a warm blanket and a game of cards. JourneyCare’s third annual Soup & Stories volunteer service project, which takes place over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday weekend, exists to provide these very items to hospice patients and their families.
I believe people are intrinsically good and want to help others, but don’t always know how.
That’s why sometimes it’s important to simply ask. Talking to friends, neighbors, colleagues and even our online social networks can be a great way to point people in the right direction.
This year's Midwest CareCenter gala honoring Dr. Dennis Murphy was a huge success, matched only by the equally monumental efforts of many volunteers. I know this because for the second year in a row, I have chaired this event with Pam Waud. Early on a Renaissance theme was selected, and it didn't take long for the incredibly creative members of our committee to start working their magic. Banners were flowing, suits of armor were arriving, and madrigal singers and actors in costume were booked.
Since my husband died, I have been knitting and crocheting healing shawls and baby blankets for a charity group associated with the University of Chicago. U of C is where my husband underwent his cancer treatment prior to entering hospice care with Midwest CareCenter. But the leader of our group is nearing retirement and we are less active, so I've decided to focus my skills on another charity group – Knit Wits at Midwest CareCenter. The group creates comfort items like blankets for patients throughout the organization.
People become hospice volunteers for different reasons. Maybe they have had a personal experience with hospice when a loved one needed care. Maybe they just want to give back. Generally when people inquire about becoming a hospice volunteer, it is because they want to contribute something of themselves to others, to contribute to a cause they believe in, and to help other people.
My name is Mary Spiewak and I've been a patient care volunteer for five years. Both of my parents were hospice patients in a wonderful program in northern Minnesota. The support my family received left a lasting impression on me. Before my mom passed, I told her that some day I would be a hospice volunteer, to try to pay back what hospice had given to all of us.
When my mother, Stasy Heile, entered Midwest CareCenter's hospice suite at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, I was certain she was near the end. Mom had experienced a hemorrhage in her brain and was in an unresponsive state. My five siblings and I stood vigil with her 24/7 and I was probably there the most, so I got to see the hospice unit in action and I was blown away. The empathy, care and compassion – we were just overwhelmed with love from these people who had never met us.
I so often hear the question asked, "And WHY are you doing this volunteering? It must be so sad!" I suspect if you are reading this blog, it happens to you also.