coping at work, finding inspiration, hospice volunteering, managing volunteers, non-profit, organizations, part time volunteer manager, volunteer, volunteer coordinator, volunteer manager, volunteer retention, volunteers
I didn’t make an appointment to repair my soul, because I really never stop to think that I need it. Every morning, I can see in the mirror how a face lift would go a long way to erase crinkling lines, but my soul, well it’s hard to see, at least in the daytime.
So, when, Hannah, a volunteer who roams the floor of a hospice care center came and got me, I wasn’t thinking about going under life’s knife, but then you have to know Hannah.
So quiet, she sometimes melts into the carpet, Hannah, at just over 5 feet tall, is like a submarine in shallow water. Her radar is spot on and in between her torpedo jokes, she gets to the heart of a patient and family. When Hannah summons you to “see this” you’d better believe it’s beyond cute or nice or lovely. It’s soulplasty. She summoned me on Monday to hear about a terminally ill man in one of the rooms. “I’ve been invited to be in on the ceremony,” she said as if I knew what the heck she was talking about.
“What ceremony?” I asked.
“Wedding? Who’s getting married?”
“He is, the patient, George.”
“Oh, wow, who is he marrying?”
“His live in girlfriend. I’m waiting for the chaplain.”
It didn’t surprise me that Hannah would be included in something so personal, so intimate, so life altering. She has this way of entering a room. She arrives, testing the emotional temperature with her eyes and ears, and becomes a part of the scene. She doesn’t throw out pleasantries, she’s all business and that business is the family in front of her. Her demeanor says, “I’m here and I’m all in no matter what’s going on.”
Our chaplain arrived. I really wanted to ask to join the group, but of course that would be about me and not about the patient so I picked at a piece of peeling wallpaper down the hall waiting to hear.
Hannah came out a short time later and nodded to me. It was done. I got some coffee and waited for Hannah to join me at a table in the lounge. She sat down and unwrapped her very long very chic scarf as if removing a part of a uniform.
“How did it go?” I asked.
She sat for a moment, processing and then spoke. “It was really good, he’s barely able to speak now, but he got the words out. He told her what he needed to say.” She choked up a bit and stopped. I could only just sit there and try to grab the emotions filling the room.
“What about his wife?”
Hannah smiled. “She positively glowed.” She twirled her scarf in her hand. “This was the one thing he insisted on, the one thing he had to do before he died.”
“Was it for a religious reason?” I gently asked.
“No.” She paused and sipped her coffee thoughtfully. “He didn’t do it out of guilt, or responsibility, or some social expectation, he did it because for him, it was his own personal responsibility laid bare. It was out of pure love.”
We both grew quiet. Then Hannah said, “Do you ever get a moment when everything seems to make sense?”
Yes, I actually do.
Yesterday I spent the day helping honor veterans for veterans day. As I stood in the cold room of a Navy Pilot, he softly said, “I can’t tell you how much this means to me.” Tears filled his eyes, and he shakily reached for my hand. I got close and felt his weakening life through his grip. He looked up at me and for a moment everything melted away, the room, the facility, the world. I could feel the battles, now distant, the coming home, the hard work, the family and friends, the joys and the heartaches. His voice, just a whisper now held the power of eternity.
It is this reparation of soul, whether we feel it firsthand or through the stories of our volunteers that give us sustenance. It is the interconnectedness of human to human to human and on that makes us do what we do.
I’m taking my newly repaired soul back to work and know that it will get battered with stress and challenges. But, at least I also know that another moment of soulplasty will come my way just when I don’t know I need it.