In 1944, Ella Fitzgerald wrote a song called "Into each life some rain must fall." The first stanza reads:
"Into each life some rain must fall.
But too much is falling in mine.
Into each heart some tears must fall.
But some day the sun will shine."
At some point in our lives, all of us experience the passing of a loved one. It may occur suddenly, or we may have to watch as our beloved suffers through a long, painful illness. As family members or caring friends, we often wonder what we can do to comfort those suffering people.
Harbors Home Health and Hospice, based in Hoquiam and serving our area, wants to assure you that their staff and volunteers are trained to make those final days as caring, stress-free, and pain-free as possible. During National Volunteer Week, April 23 to 29, they invite you to participate as caring members of your community.
Hospice volunteers do make a difference. They dedicate their time, love and support to providing comfort, compassion and quality care for the terminally ill and their families. Volunteers perform many simple services. They often sit at the bedside of a patient, relieving family members from the constant demands of caring for a loved one. They may run errands like picking up prescriptions or a favorite food. They may read a book to a patient or just be a good listener. And they often provide bereavement assistance to families before and after the death of their loved one.
Here's what some local volunteers are doing to help the terminally ill and their survivors.
Patricia "Pat" Butterworth has served as a hospice volunteer for 11 years, providing respite, visiting with patients in their homes and participating with work crews to help with special projects. Her cheerful Scottish manner makes her a welcome sight to patients and families.
John Allison - a man of few words - helps hospice patients with home improvements. Michael Cohn works as a parole and probation officer and teaches college part-time, yet manages to find time to visit many patients, sitting up all night with some who have no family.
Little Feather is a practicing Shaman who inspires volunteer groups with her personal experience and insights, helping volunteers build their communication skills.
Rocquelyn "Rocky" Jastek, a retired physician, visits with patients, provides respite care and offers her professional guidance to volunteers.
Sally Jo Pascoe provides special home-cooked treats to patients and their families and helps record patients' memories in life journals. Retired college professor Jim Bowers who joined the local group last year - visits patients and provides a calm and reassuring presence as a caregiver.
Sallie McKay brings a wealth of experience as a volunteer. Sallie visits patients, provides meals, offers respite, participates in volunteer work crews, and exudes a welcome willingness to almost any task.
Volunteers like John and Rita Sporseen, Theresa Greer, Kay Hall, and Sharon Hoerner also share with simple tasks like cooking, cleaning, reading the Bible, playing cards, or simply holding hands with someone who is dying. These are "profiles in hospice courage."
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Art Buchwald, 80, attests to the comfort and dignity provided by hospice staff and volunteers. Dying from kidney and vascular ailments, Buchwald chose to quit life-prolonging dialysis and checked himself into a hospice facility. At peace with his choice, the world-famous author of 8,000 columns and 30 books urges others in need to experience the benefits of hospice care.
So, what can you do to participate in this worthy organization? Volunteer! Take the training course, learn from others, and help bring some real "sunshine" into the lives of people who have a lot of "rain" in their lives.
In his book, "Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul," hospice volunteer Wynell Glanton Britton said: "I am filled with great humility. Each assignment holds a new challenge. I have learned from every family. We are all God's children, and He has a plan for each life. A smile is the same in every language."
Help bring a smile to others. Contact the Estelle Bailey, volunteer coordinator at Harbors Home Health and Hospice at (800) 772-1319 or (360) 532-5454. Bailey stresses a particular need for volunteers in the Naselle area. She also invites everyone who has lost a loved one recently to a special service honoring caregivers, families and hospice nurses on Saturday, June 10 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Methodist Church in Ocean Park.
If direct patient contact isn't easy for you, consider joining Friends of Hospice. This worthy organization does special fundraising projects and events to help hospice and home health patients with medical supplies and prescriptions not covered by insurance. Call Rocky Jastek at (360) 635-5380 for more information.
And remember Winston Churchill's wise remark: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
Ocean Park resident Gwen Brake is a teacher at Grays Harbor College and the Astoria School District, a freelance writer, and a hospice volunteer. She can be reached at email@example.com.