Volunteering Makes Woman Feel Young

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Lois Brice was going to be a missionary. Instead, she became a wife, a mother, a seamstress, a social worker, a teacher and now, a hospice volunteer.

Brice is 89 and says volunteering at the hospice, working with the dying, makes her feel young.

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Lois Brice

"It's an inner satisfaction," Brice said. "My mission in life is a helper."

She enjoys healing, helping, talking -- and perhaps sharing her strength with another sustains her own. But Brice likes staying busy, and has no room for being called old.

"I never equate myself with a woman that's older than I am," she said. She tells the story of an 80-year-old woman who felt down and tired because of her age.

"She figured that 80 was an old person that was supposed to be tired out -- buried, I don't know."

Brice's husband, Lee, died six years ago, at 93.

"For three months I had a hospital bed in here," Brice said about her home. "They took the best of best of care.

"I wanted to give back to my community and they (the hospice) were so good to my husband."

Some of the people Brice "sits" with have no family, no friends in the area. Her companionship offers an outlet.

Some talk about their families. Some never move beyond the topic, Brice said. Some like to read, others enjoy just sitting.

"I never get into -- unless they want to talk about it -- religion."

One topic usually avoided is the news of the day, Brice said. CNN newscasters murmured in the background on her television screen as she spoke.

When first introduced to a patient, Brice evaluates their body language and estimates their sentiment. Do they want her company? If they tell her to leave, she'll leave.

But as a child will sometimes say, "leave," when they actually mean, "stay," Brice said the dying have no use for such mind games.

"If they don't want you to stay, they'll tell you."

Even those without desire for conversation usually allow Brice to stay. She'll sit with them for about an hour.

"Sometimes you might visit three or four times before you're really welcome."

The lady she sits with now needed one of those acclimation periods.

The fourth time, the lady said, "Please come back." For Brice, it was a breakthrough.

And when someone passes, Brice says sure, she's sad. But, "to me, they're still vibrant because they became a part of my life."

Brice has become an avid sewer. On Wednesday, she displayed a pillowcase made for her granddaughter. It was black with guitars printed on it; a pink border framed the opening.

The next day, Brice and her daughter were leaving to drive to Texas to visit family.

"You're not driving, are you?" asked a fellow working outside Brice's home, as he presented the bill.

"You're paying me for once instead of the other way around," he joked.

"I sew for him," Brice explained.

She later asked him what size pants he wore.

"Thirty-eight length, that's the killer," he told her after noting his waist size.

"There's not too many people that sew anymore," Brice said. "I like to be busy, I guess -- too hyper or something.

"When I'm 90, I'll stop and smell the roses."

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