Apr 24, 2008

Hospice Volunteering, etc.

by Anna Arnett

Good Grief! It's pushing midnight. I'm drifting off to sleep, and suddenly remembered that I hadn't actually written that blog I woke up thinking about this morning. What happened to my day? Well, if I could recall it all, I'd tell you. It just went, while I sat right here, sorting papers, working a sudoku puzzle, and daydreaming, I guess. I think my interest in my email crowded out my blog thoughts. At any rate, I lazily felt I had no other appointments or important tasks that simply had to be done. I was going to post by nine, but. . . well, I still want to tell you what happened yesterday. (Or is it really day-before-yesterday already now? At this rate I'll really get to be an old lady.)

Tuesday started out calmly. It's nice to have a few unfocused days like that. I had nothing on my calendar, but I remembered I was getting a perm from my grand-daughter at about 4 :00. Then at about 2:00 my daughter Karlene reminded me I'd promised to go shopping at Costco with her, which I did, right after the missionaries called to confirm that I'd volunteered to feed them this evening. There would be three of them, and they'd be here at about 5:30. That would run it awfully close, but I knew it would work out one way or another. As I picked up my keys to drive to Costco, the phone rang again. My hospice coordinator called, as promised, to remind me of the dinner for volunteers she was hosting at the office at 6:00. I told her I couldn't make it that early, but might get there by seven. She seemed pleased that I'd still make the effort.

The amazing part was that it all worked out. Suzanne gave me the perm at my place rather than hers; instead of the meal I'd purchased ingredients for, my daughter Kat augmented what she had planned with only minimal help from me; I greeted the missionaries with perm rods in my hair, covered tightly with a plastic 'bag'; we visited while the perm set, and after scripture and another prayer, I left for the volunteer 'banquet' with my perm-smelling-hair damp, straggly and kinky. It's not my most flattering style, but so what?

I've volunteered almost weekly for nearly five years at an assisted living place within a mile of my home. That's why I got interested in hospice training. I tried for a couple of years to get set up for the training, but it never quite worked out. Then last fall, it did. My husband asked me why in the world I would want to take that training, and I told him it was so that I'd know how to treat him. Actually, I learned a lot about hospice as a business, and what their rules and limitations were, but as for how to visit, I learned much more than they could teach me just attending Relief Society for over six decades, and practicing compassion. Sorry, Charles, if i came u with no real improvement, but at least I was trying.

Last Friday, I had a first visit with a sweet Italian lady who is a couple of years younger than I. She had no single health condition that would put her on hospice, but a combination of numerous problems, at least half of which I have, as well. She spends most of her day draping her ample body in a wheelchair. She's alert, inelligent, and loves to talk. In the couple of hours I sat with her, I'd be surprised if I got more than ten minutes worth of speech slipped into the slight pauses. But that's what I came for -- to listen. Even with my hearing aids, I missed understanding about a quarter of what she said, but since I really didn't need to know, I just nodded, made a few noncommital sounds, smiled, and usually kept focused.

She was wonderful. Her large, brown eyes glowed as she told me of her grandfather who came from Sicily and settled in Louisiana, near Shreveport. She expressed love for her father who built up a large plantation, where she grew up, an only child. Most wonderful was her devout Catholic faith, and her continual confirmation that, though she had many trials, and was often swindled, she held no grudges, but trusted completely in the Savior and the Blessed Mother.

Every now and then she paused to say, "I've done all the talking. I want to know about you."

"All right," I'd say, "What would you like to know?"

"Something like where you're from. Was it a happy place like my home? I remember when . . . ." and she was off for another half an hour of explaining, or rambling. I'd have been tempted to take notes if I'd been able to understand enough of what she told me. As it was I merely continued to nod, and slip in a few words now and again.

Easy to look at, with warm brown hair hanging loosely about her face, and an engaging smile, I enjoyed myself as she chatted on and on, gesturing gracefully, and watching my reactions.

When I rose to leave, she thanked me for coming. "I probably shouldn't say this," she murmured as she leaned closer, "but I like you better than any of the visitors I've had. You understand me."

I giggled all the way home, feeling warm, cozy, and fulfilled.


  1. Those are the kind of days that turn out so well and make you feel you do have purpose in the world. What a wonderful experience, thanks for sharing it.

  2. We all like your best, Anna! Thanks for sharing your wonderful day. I love it when things work out and I love reading your cheerful words.

  3. You made me feel all warm and cozy, too, Anna. I can just see your lady, you described her so well. I'll bet she'll be looking for you next time you come.


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