Being a Witness

Posted by Judi Ronan, Midwest CareCenter volunteer

Being a Witness
Judi Ronan’s mother, Doris Bladowski, with her granddaughters, Katie and Molly

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.

Since February 2013, I have been reflecting on all the "whys" that led me to visit patients as a volunteer. Simply put, I have a desire to help, and what better way to "give of self" than to help others with compassion, an open ear, an understanding and sympathetic smile ... or maybe just be that someone who brings them a cup of coffee?

Deepak Chopra says, "True wisdom is seeing what needs to be done and then acting on your inner knowing." Being a hospice volunteer allows so many opportunities to stop, get quiet, and reflect on what it is this special person needs in this moment.

Who would not desire this wisdom?

And, that part about getting quiet which results in listening more is a great gift – and one I have to say I needed to work on in my life. I thank my patients for this growth opportunity. I get to practice.

Volunteering for Midwest CareCenter has filled a part of me that was yearning for connection and purpose ... to be part of something that has meaning and to experience it with others who feel the same. I am so proud of this connection. I look at my patients and think that – even in this most heartbreaking time – they are surrounded by love, top notch care and they are not alone. There can be all this good in the midst of all this sadness.

WITNESSING. As a volunteer I have had the privilege of witnessing the love expressed in families. I am in awe of the ways they communicate, touch, hold each other up, cry together and even make jokes about their situations. I am also a witness to tears, anger, pain management and deep emotion and grief.

When I spend time with patients and families, I feel blessed to be a witness to their strength and how they handle grief and the pain of saying goodbye. I am inspired beyond belief. I actually say, "I want to be like them. I want that strong love and relationship in my life."

They inspire me to be a better wife, mother, sister and friend.

I am also a witness to how our care teams work together with purpose and clarity, all with the patient and family coming first. I think, "Wow! This is how it can be done ... now I understand!"

My family was witness to all this care when our ailing mother suddenly decided it was time to go see her Lord, stopped eating and passed away in just weeks. I was a new volunteer at the time and cannot express the gratitude we feel at how Midwest CareCenter was there through the entire journey. That comforting feeling of not being alone makes all the difference during such a sad and stressful time.

When patients are alone, I feel privileged during a vigil or during the time I spend at the pavilion to sit and provide presence, speak softly, pray, gently touch and let them know they are being cared for in a safe place.

It is then that I am a witness to my own ability to provide comfort and compassion with an open heart ... they know they are not alone.

What a gift to myself and a gift that keeps on giving.

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