The work of Hospice Compassus is both emotionally draining and tremendously rewarding for both its staff and volunteers.
These are the men and women who have stepped up to ease the process of dying — the most difficult and trying time in the life of an individual and their loved ones.
Part of the volunteer corps of Hospice is a small group that has chosen to be at the bedside of those who have no family in their final hours. They are called “Angels.”
There are four veterans in the program — Margie Thompson, Terry Broce, Peggy Malecha and Dick Brubaker. All but Malecha became Hospice volunteers after a loved one was a client. Brubaker also said it was something he felt he could do after surgery limited his mobility. Malecha said she decided to volunteer with Hospice after reading about it.
“Volunteering is a passion of mine,” Malecha said.
All four have a history of volunteering — Brubaker was with Habitat for Humanity, Broce helped at the school where her son was enrolled, Malecha just retired from helping the Rim Country Literacy Program.
“It’s such an honor to be there at that time,” Thompson said. “There are things I can’t do, but this is something I can do.”
“No two are the same,” Broce said. “I watch the faces. You can see there are those who don’t want to be read to or touched by the way they seem to frown. I get so much from it. It’s not work, it’s an honor.”
Thompson recalled the first Hospice patient she sat with. He had a granddaughter coming to be with him, but she did not get there in time. When she did, no words were exchanged, it was just a look and it said how grateful she was.
“What we do is not always for the patient, but for the caregiver. Some have been with the patient so long, they have grown so close it breaks their heart when the patient dies,” Thompson said.
She said this is especially true when the patient has been in long-term care; the nurses are so appreciative of having the volunteers there. Brubaker said they thanked him so much for being there he almost felt guilty.
“We see these people at the very end, in their last few hours, but often it is like you’ve known them forever,” Broce said.
Brubaker said even though many of the patients are in a coma as they near the end, you can tell they are restless, but just having someone there seems to settle them.
“It does something for me. Sometimes touching them seems to give them comfort. It makes me feel good and I am helping them,” Brubaker said.
Malecha’s first patient was a priest. She said since she was Catholic, she started saying the rosary.
Brubaker and Thompson also sat with the priest — the volunteers in the Angel program have four-hour shifts, so often care for the same individual.
Brubaker said even though the priest was in a coma, he spoke to him, saying he was a different religion and asked if he could pray for him. Of course there was no answer, “But I felt he heard that.”
Thompson said she felt she couldn’t touch a priest, but then she saw the nurses brushing his hair.
“I realized we are all the same,” Thompson said.”
“With each patient you’re with, they’re teaching me not to be afraid when I go,” said Broce.