Sunday, November 9, 2008

that hospice thing

So a while ago I posted about volunteering with hospice. I still visit Maggie, and also another gentleman I'll call Henry. It's weird that I got this inclination for working with hospice only months before my mom-in-law needed hospice care of her own. I'm not sure it gave me any insight or preparation whatever into Donna's sickness and death, but it was definitely weird timing.

I like the people I visit. A lot. Maggie manages to communicate with her smile that she is just so pleased we are there, so amazed to see a wee person beside her. Lucy is comfortable enough now that she pulls me down the hall, plays with the levers on Maggie's wheelchair, and gives her a kiss goodbye. Every time we see her, she begins the visit by staring off into space, but seeing Lucy has never failed to make her smile.

Henry was a harder nut to crack--he still is. He's able to communicate much more than Maggie, ask questions, answer them. So I think he has more frustration, too, being more aware. So when I first visited him, he told me not to turn down the (very) loud volume on his television so I could hear his (very) quiet voice. He was much more interested in CNN than hospice visitors. And who can blame him? And I realized I was a little annoyed at him for not being immediately taken with Lucy; he (gasp) almost ignored her during our first few visits. But now I catch him watching her with a smile on his face. He thanked me for praying for him. He doesn't object when I turn down his volume anymore.

The odd thing about doing something often enough is that you get used to it. Visit terminally ill people with various health issues, and it becomes normal. I greet Maggie's hallmate, the woman who always tells me that I should take her home with me and that she wants to keep Lucy, and who occasionally makes comments about her breasts in a very loud voice. I smile at the woman who says "Help! Help! Help" over and over, then stops and compliments Lucy's pigtails.

Mostly when we're there, Lucy wants to play the piano in one of the lounges. I let her, occasionally asking a staff person if it bothers anyone. "No," they laugh, and when I see the audience that collects to watch her concert, I have to agree with them.

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