In 2013, my husband and I were looking for a way to do something more, a way to give back to others. He came home from work one day and had seen a flyer about AseraCare at the bank, and thought that might be just what we were looking for. To be quite honest, I was a little hesitant. I was still carrying a little heartache from losing my parents in 2008 and 2009. But, I thought it might do me some good to try it.
Once we completed our training and got certified, we just started slowly. Just 2-3 visits a month with one patient. Because we didn’t do many visits we had trouble building a rapport with the patients. Then one day we started visiting with Margaret, very alert and VERY talkative! She won my heart quickly. We got to know her quite well as she liked to talk, and due to her condition, she repeated stories quite often. She always put a smile on my face, and I always felt like I wanted to visit more.
In May of 2019, Frank’s grandmother Ruth, who was 92, had a bad fall. After hospitalization, we had her admitted to the same facility as Margaret. When the time came, we registered her with AseraCare Hospice…and we were able to be the volunteers for her. With this new situation, we were able to visit with both, and quite often. I always made it a point to visit with Margaret for at least 5 minutes when we were visiting Ruth. Both seemed to be declining quickly.
As things progressed, I really began to understand just how important the role is of a volunteer. To see Margaret’s eyes light up when I walked in the room, even when she didn’t have the strength to talk, but just sit together. I also learned from Margaret just how much it meant to hold hands, something we had never really done when one day she asked me to hold her hand. As I did she just smiled and closed her eyes to rest. Each time I would visit it got harder to leave. I knew it would soon be time to let go.
I started to visit Ruth more and more. She was declining fast. Even though she was my husband’s grandmother, I had only known her about 7 years. Family was so very important to her, and she knew her daughter would have difficulty with her passing. The day came that we got the call that they didn’t expect her to last much longer. I was at home working on a painting commission, talking to my sister on the phone and it hit me. What was I doing here when I should be with Ruth? I’m a trained volunteer, and that’s where I should be. I spent the day there with her daughter and her grand-daughter. It was 4:30 and my husband was getting off work, stopping at home then coming over. I re-assured my mother-in-law that I would stay and she could go, she needed to get rest.
So then it was just me and Ruth. I sat beside her, holding her hand and praying with her and talking to her. She was tired and ready to rest. I told her, “It’s ok to go. The family will be fine. You did a good job”. It had only been 5 minutes at most that I sat there. I looked down for a brief moment at her hand as I held it and gently caressed her fingers. In that moment she peacefully breathed her last breath.
It was an indescribable feeling. I was there for her. As much as she loved her family, she chose to leave while I was with her. I don’t believe she wanted her family to carry that kind of pain with them. I know she loved and trusted me, and I was honored to have been there at that moment. After her passing, I genuinely wanted to be there for Margaret. Sadly I wasn’t. But I know how much our visits meant to her. More importantly, I know what it meant to me. I finally overcame the grief from losing my own parents.
Everyone deserves someone in their finals days; for company and for comfort. I’m honored to be able to do that as an AseraCare volunteer.
Lori Shutzc – AseraCare Volunteer since 2013