Just a short entry tonight. I have to be at Hospice at 6 for my volunteer shift. I have to admit, I was pretty scared about volunteering in the in-patient unit to begin with and I always kind of get butterflies in my tummy when it's time to go in the building, but it has truly become one of the richest experiences of my life. It's not without its difficulties-all of the roller coaster emotions that death brings- but the rewards far outweigh the tears shed. I have met so many amazing people; patients and staff alike, and learned so many valuable lessons. It certainly puts one's own life in perspective.
On a typical night I can do anything from filling the birdfeeders outside the rooms, collecting dinner trays and menus, stocking linens, refilling ice water to stocking the fridge. Other nights find me feeding someone, reading to someone else, running when a call light comes on, visiting or just holding a hand as the end draws near. Nothing huge in the great scheme of things, but being with the patients is truly amazing. So many lessons to be learned. You see such strength and spirituality under all of the pain. It's not at all what I thought it would be. Makes me realize how truly blessed my life is.
Just got home after yet another amazing night at Hospice. Did a lot of things including 'walking' the grounds with a young guy in the later stages of ALS. He had a big motorized wheelchair and the use of his right index finger to make it go. He was very difficult to understand, mostly talking with air instead of sounds, but we were both patient and had a nice walk and visit down by the fountain. We talked about family, Chicago, birds and the deer that everyone had seen eating grass out back earlier in the evening. On the way back, we had been slowly 'strolling' all along, but he started going even slower and I asked him if he was OK. He said yes and that the chair loses its charge more when it's going slow. I said "Well kick it in the butt then! I'll give you a dollar if you can take out those four road cones over there!" He took off across the parking lot at, conservatively estimated, 900 miles and hour with me running behind him yelling, "Stop! Stop! I don't really have a dollar!" He stopped in front of the road cones and was laughing his butt off. I stopped worrying that they were going to find us in a big heap in the middle of the parking lot, surrounded by parts of wheelchair and road cones and started worrying that he was going to hyper ventilate and pass out! He was fine though and when we went back in I told the nurses that he was a menace and had been hot-rodding in the dooryard. He was all smiles. A young man is still a young man, muscle control or no, voice or no. Just give him a set of wheels and a warm summer night....