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A Promise Kept and Rummikub to Remember

Posted by Mary Spiewak, Midwest CareCenter volunteer

A Promise Kept and Rummikub to Remember

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.

I chose Midwest Palliative and Hospice CareCenter for several reasons. A girlfriend of mine had been a patient of Midwest CareCenter several years earlier. Her husband spoke very kindly about the compassionate care they received from all of the staff and volunteers. Also, several of my friends are nurses in the Chicago area so I asked for their opinions about various hospice organizations. They spoke highly about Midwest CareCenter and said its reputation was excellent.

The patient care training I received was comprehensive and I felt very prepared to make my first visit. I was fortunate to be assigned a lovely woman in her early 100s. She was alert and talkative. She taught me to play a game called Rummikub, and we played it during every visit. She had been very social and clearly missed that aspect of her life. My volunteer coordinator allowed me to bring my good friend, Ursula Pawlus, also a Midwest
CareCenter volunteer, to the visits with me. This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship we developed with this patient.

We became very close to her family and caregiver, and we really looked forward to our visits. We were invited to attend several birthdays that the family held for her, meeting many of her centenarian friends as well. We even accompanied her to vote during the last presidential election, which was a particularly special event.

The day she passed was sad, but we had been so enriched by our experience with her and felt extremely honored to have become part of her life. After the services, her granddaughter gave us the Rummikub game. To this day, Ursula and I still get together to play that Rummikub game every week, often reminiscing about our times with her.

Every patient is different and has his or her own needs. Not every visit is joyful. I sometimes just sit quietly and hold a hand. I do whatever I can to meet the needs of the patient and family and/or caregiver. I always feel humbled and honored when I leave each visit. It's an experience that is like no other for me. I'm thankful I found Midwest CareCenter and am confident that Mom and Dad would be happy too.

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