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The End of Life as a Life Lesson

Posted by Mila Filipovic, volunteer

The End of Life as a Life Lesson

My beloved late husband, who died November 11, 2014, was in the care of JourneyCare in our home for the last four days of his life. Coming from Serbia, neither one of us knew much about this health service, except that we were both scared by the word “hospice!” We associated it with the end of life and we were both horrified.

“Please don’t mention the word hospice,” I begged a social worker, who later helped both of us a great deal. “No worries, nobody likes that word,” she told me with a hug like a sister, and sympathy deep in her eyes.

My Marko died peacefully in the comfort of our home, per his last wish. And people from this hospice were there, right by his bedside. It meant the world to me, a wife who was heartbroken, lost, sad and confused. At that moment I made a promise to myself: If I ever recover from my loss, I will help people in need.

After 13 months of horrible grief, I took all the appropriate classes and became a member of the wonderful JourneyCare volunteer team.

My first patient was a woman from Russia and we connected on many different levels — as friends, daughters, emigrants, and lovers of travel, classical music and theatre. She also had recently lost her husband and somehow she was now ready for her last journey.

We understood each other’s pain perfectly, but also found a foundation for a new friendship, which I will cherish forever. I would bring my homemade cookies to her and she would serve her favorite homemade juice. We listened to Tchaikovsky, and talked about "The Nutcracker" and her favorite trips to Hawaii with her beloved husband.

This woman didn’t have her own children, but she had a family she took care of for almost 20 years as a loving nanny. One young lawyer, who she cared for as a child, said she was more than a grandmother to him, and another young lady loved her as the best nanny in the world. This same young woman was there, after many sleepless nights, when my patient and friend took her last breath. One of those nights, I was there and I witnessed a peace on my patient’s face. I knew she was ready to be with her husband again.

In our very short time together, this patient taught me many important things about life. I have learned that death is not the end, but rather a part of life — that missing piece in everybody’s journey on this planet. I understand that God is present at any given moment, but that we have to learn how to recognize his presence. I will remember that every single moment of our lives is a treasure, we just need to learn how to see it and not waste it.

I continue to volunteer with JourneyCare and I now have two beautiful ladies I visit occasionally. I give them a little hope, and they give me priceless smiles every time I enter their rooms. Who could ask for more?

Learn about volunteer opportunities with JourneyCare at journeycare.org/volunteer.

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