To continue to show our appreciation for National Volunteer Week, we asked Gilchrist Volunteer, Marion E. Robinson, to tell us her story:
It’s been more than 14 years since my beloved Bill died, and I still remember those last weeks and days like it was yesterday. I remember the deep sadness. I remember watching him slip away. But mostly, I remember how I just needed to get out, to take time for myself – to go to the market or the bank, to walk in the fresh air.
Maybe that’s why, when the volunteer office at Gilchrist Hospice Care calls with an assignment to visit a patient, I jump. I might have plans, but I always say, the family needs me more than the movies or a lunch date. I know because I was in their shoes once. I remember how precious moments away, spent doing the most ordinary activities, would give me the strength I needed to make it through to the next day.
I started volunteering at Gilchrist a decade ago, about the same time I retired from my job as an earnings clerk at Social Security. I always knew I wanted to help out in some way; after all, Gilchrist had been a lifeline for me after Bill died. I spent many months working with the Bereavement department as I worked to overcome the grief that was taking over my life.
In the years since, I have tried to be there for every call. I wouldn’t say there’s anything spectacular about the time I spend with my patients – at least not on the surface. But I know my volunteer families would say our interactions are an important part of their hospice experience. It was for the patient who loved to spar with me over politics; his wife said he looked forward to our weekly debates. It also was for the family who lives around the corner from me; her daughter still thanks me every time we bump into each other.
Then, there’s my current family. The husband can’t talk, but the wife needs a weekly break. I’ll come by for two hours. Sometimes it’s closer to four. I spend my time there just talking to him, or watching his favorite show, The Price is Right. She takes the time to do her grocery shopping, or stop at the bank. I tell her to take all the time she needs.
I know I’m helping in ways my families may not completely understand just yet.
I remember how it was. I get it. It is the simplest of things – time to recharge – that mean the most during those terrible last days. I know I’m making a difference.