Posted tagged ‘volunteerism’

I stepped away from wisdom

May 18, 2016

by Jim Young, LDHH-H volunteer

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Volunteer Jim Young

Maybe some of you remember me. But maybe this is the first time you have read anything from this site. The first blog I read from HPCCR brought tears to my eyes, and since then I have cried many times from the words that were written by so many wonderful people – words of honesty, love, and conviction.

Hospice moments are filled with raw and honest emotion. As someone who has stood in those moments countless times, being there can be both rewarding and frustrating. But to be honest, the most frustrating part of hospice for me was the frustration of stepping back – or in my case stepping away from – this wonderful organization.

I volunteered with HPCCR for six years, and in August of last year, my personal plate got rather full. I personally felt I could not commit one hundred percent to a patient assignment, so I stepped away. And in doing so, I stepped away from wisdom.

Wisdom has always inspired my thoughts and my actions, and it was wisdom that always led me to writing about my feelings about hospice. When I left HPCCR, the words left too. This is the first time I have been able to put words to paper, to express the feelings of my heart.

Lately I’ve been feeling that there can be light in death just as in death there can be life.

Allow me to explain. Life in death can mean acceptance to a hopeless outcome, clarity to confusion. Life in death is moving forward, carrying that loved one in your heart.

Light in death is when life simply transitions from a physical presence to a spiritual one. Light in death is finding the peace you are so desperately searching for, the beacon calling you to embrace the joy and the sadness of life meeting death.

I think that is why I’m being called back– to embrace the joy and sadness once again. It was God who led me to HPCCR in the first place, and it is God leading me back there now.

If that isn’t divine wisdom, then tell me what is.

Comfort without being asked

April 19, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

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Ollie

I met the sweetest volunteer the other week. He had truly soul-searching eyes and an uncanny ability to know exactly what patients needed from him, including how he could comfort them, without being asked.

His name was Ollie and he was an eight-year old Labradoodle.

National Volunteer Week was last week and HPCCR made special efforts to recognize the amazing men and women who offer their time and love to the individuals (and their families) under our care. But what about the animals who do the same thing for our organization? It’s definitely harder to show our appreciation. But I think they know; they must certainly feel the intense adoration coming their way from everyone who meets them.

Pet therapy dogs are brilliant. Ollie knows the difference between when he can “be a dog” when it’s time to “go to work”. His owner, Robin, in fact uses those very words (“It’s time to go to work, Ollie!”) when she’s ready to load up and head to Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, where you can find them each Wednesday afternoon.

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Ollie and his owner, Robin

Robin told me some amazing stories. But one of them really resonated with me and almost brought me to tears. She told me about the time when, after a patient had died, the family (who had particularly loved Ollie) requested that he participate in the ceremonial procession of walking behind the body to the waiting vehicle outside. This family had a long tradition of waving as they said goodbye and they all wanted to wave one last time to their loved one. As the vehicle drove away, all of the family members were waving and crying. Then they turned and looked down (in shock) to see Ollie lift his paw as well. Robin was not surprised. “He totally gets it. You don’t have to say anything.”

Ollie seems to sense when and where the patients need him. He’s been known to jump up on beds but he can also tell when lying on the floor next to them is the best way to offer comfort. He’s always calm, always full of love, and he never fails to bring a smile to at least one face in the room.

I watched Ollie in action that day. We entered the room and, I tell you, the entire mood shifted. Faces lit up, questions were asked about him, and stories were offered up about their own dogs. There was hardly a second when a hand was not on Ollie’s head or stroking his unbelievably soft ears.

And when it was time to go, he knew that too. He moved on to the next room, ready to offer exactly the kind of comfort they needed. Without being asked.

For more information about pet therapy or volunteering with Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, visit our website, hpccr.org or call us at 704.375.0100.

 

 

A teacher of doing things correctly

June 3, 2015

by Erin Branham, HPCCR Volunteer

Hildegard Kappler

Hildegard Kappler

Her thick, white hair glistened like a sheet of satin. Almost as if ironed in place, every lock was as straight as rain yet appeared soft to the touch like a freshly fallen patch of snow.

You couldn’t help but notice Mrs. Hildegard Kappler’s hair. Even as she laid peacefully in her bed at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville, Mrs. Kappler’s hair told the story of a debonair woman. A woman to whom presentation and order were really large matters. A woman who conveyed sophistication without the trappings of fine jewelry and demanded respect without uttering a word.

Mrs. Kappler’s grandson, Chris, welcomed me into the presence of a woman I would soon learn was every bit as remarkable as my first impressions foretold. Chris was eager to tell me stories about his grandmother – or “Oma,” the German word for grandmother – as her four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren affectionately called her. Over the next two hours, I was captivated by Chris’s accounts of her many accomplishments that became even more noteworthy in the humble context of where and when Mrs. Kappler’s story began.

Mrs. Kappler immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1931 when she was just thirteen. She and her mother passed through Ellis Island, and as it would turn out, so would Mrs. Kappler’s eventual husband, Hermann, also from Germany. The families were united by a common purpose – leaving a homeland they no longer recognized due to Nazi occupation. “Oma’s father didn’t like the way the SS officers looked at the young German girls,” recalled Chris.

I was transported to a place and time I’d only read about in history books, imagining young Hildegard, perhaps donning a traditional dirndl dress, setting her eyes for the first time on America’s shores alongside other immigrants hailing from Hungary, Ireland, or Poland. Some escaping fear and persecution, others famine and poverty. What must have it been like, I pondered, for Hildegard as she entered New York Harbor, spellbound by the massive statue and her mighty, outstretched lamp. A sight so breathtaking it overtook even memories of the dank and dreary conditions she endured along the arduous, seaborne journey. This girl, who had survived the chaos and confusion of Ellis Island, was the very same woman before me. Now so angelically quiet. So still. So serene.

Mrs. Kappler would remain in New York City, as Chris went on to explain, where she became a successful seamstress, even sewing formal gowns for “Miss America” and other beauty pageant contestants on her beloved Singer sewing machine. Her husband, a tool and die maker by trade, was enlisted to read German U-boat blueprints to assist in America’s war efforts. Though Mrs. Kappler and husband never forgot their Germanic roots and culture, they were fiercely dedicated to the United States and would go on to live what could be described as a prototype of the American dream.

That dream, as Chris’ story unfolded, was full of blessings but was not without its struggles. Mrs. Kappler, by then the mother of two young sons, followed her husband’s career with Niemand Industries to Statesville, North Carolina, leaving behind both city life and her sewing business. Entrepreneurial by nature, Mrs. Kappler not only continued making clothes for her family but also became a licensed real estate broker and local business owner. “A woman ahead of her time,” I recalled thinking. As I would later learn in conversation with her younger son, Doug, Mrs. Kappler even dabbled in stock trading, keeping a friendly competition with her husband on whose picks yielded a better performance.

In 1970, Mr. and Mrs. Kappler lost their eldest son, Chris’s father, in an auto accident at the hands of a drunk driver. Ever the matriarch, Mrs. Kappler assumed the mantle of responsibility for her family. “She held us all together,” praised Chris of his Oma, the affection, love, and admiration he had for her shining through as he recounted each cherished memory. Many of those memories were formed at Oma’s house around the dinner table. At Mrs. Kappler’s insistence, family meals were always formal affairs, with the sterling silver flatware placed in the exact order of its use. “Oma’s a stickler for doing things right,” said Chris, chuckling, while I grinned envisioning Oma, dressed to the nines, aghast upon discovering a misplaced salad fork. If it’s possible to know you’d get along with someone from mere stories, I knew at that moment Mrs. Kappler and I would have agreed on many things. “A woman after my own ‘Type A’ heart,” I shared.

As Chris described Mrs. Kappler’s later years, a picture emerged of a woman as compassionate as she was courageous. With her Christian faith as her guide, Mrs. Kappler cared selflessly for her husband as his health declined, just as she had done in earlier years for her mother and stepfather. Her final years were spent in a senior living community in the town of Davidson, which is where my husband and I lived for nearly seven years. I did not believe that commonality to be mere coincidence.

The day after my visit, I received a call notifying me of Mrs. Kappler’s passing. I was comforted in knowing that her transition had been eased by the wonderful care the staff at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville provided. This volunteer experience has left an indelible impression on my heart, not just because of the exceptional woman Mrs. Kappler was but because of the full and abundant life I experienced in that room. To equate hospice solely with death, I have discovered in the near year I have spent volunteering with this wonderful organization, is to miss much of the mission. Yes, hospice care is about easing the dying process, but it’s equally about celebrating the lives of those we are fortunate enough to encounter, whether it is only for one evening like I did with Mrs. Kappler, or for weeks or many months. I will forever remain indebted to Mrs. Kappler for imparting this important lesson. Fittingly, her obituary reads, “a strict but caring mother, and a teacher of doing things correctly.”

Before I left the hospice house that cold, November evening, Chris and I each took Mrs. Kappler’s hand to pray. I entreated God to comfort His faithful servant of 96 years and our sweet Oma, as I had quickly grown comfortable calling her, while caressing the same hair I had earlier admired. It still looked perfect. I have a feeling Mrs. Kappler wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Is this my last chance?

April 8, 2015

by Jim Young, HPCCR Volunteer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been volunteering for HPCCR for over five years.  Believe me when I tell you that I have personally received a lot more from the experience than I have given.  Recent events in my personal life, however, have me questioning my commitment to this cause that I have never questioned before.  I find myself asking, “Can I keep my commitment to do this anymore?”  Maybe some of you have asked the same question as we all seem to get pulled away from our commitments, and even worse, our personal commitments pull us away from the ones who depend on us to be there.

One of the many lessons I have learned from my time with hospice is that you may only have one chance to interact with a patient or loved one.  You may have only one chance to see a smile, or share the tears of a moment, whether it be happy or sad.  And finally, you may only have one chance to walk with someone special who will teach you about life in just a few steps, or maybe they will teach you what is truly important in the walk of life.  It isn’t their worldly possessions, or the places they have been, or even their accomplishments throughout their lives.  It is the quality in the essence of life, and the people who have shared that essence. It’s an amazing perspective from a place where life meets with death, or a place where life exists but the memories are long gone.

In hospice, time could be the deciding factor in that one chance for a doctor, nurse, or a volunteer to make a positive impact on that patient (or loved one or friend) before death comes — a foe that cannot be defeated, who has no mercy or understanding , a cancerous enemy taking loved ones without warning or reasoning. This is the question I keep asking myself: “Have I had my last chance?”

I hope and pray that all who read this have the same passion I have when it comes to this war that cannot be won.  But I know the battle can be fought without surrender, that we can fight this battle against cancer, dementia, fatigue, despair, sickness, even anger and frustration.  We simply have to offer our commitment to the needs of others, compassion and understanding in the face of confusion and hopelessness, and our love for this wonderful and noble organization in order to step through the fears of death.  Then we can see the life that still shines brightly, the essence of life that evolves into a beacon in the search for peace.

We all have our commitments to our own families, and our own lives, but we also have a commitment to contribute to the good of the world because of the blessings we have each have been graced with.  My faith and my heart will guide my thoughts as I ask God, “Can I have another chance to embrace those on the edge where life meets death?”  I hope and pray I will have that chance.

Then, like now

January 2, 2014

by Carol Anne Lawler, HPCCR Communities of Faith Liaison

Past-Present-and-Future-signsA couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ruth Loucks and Mary Nelson, two women who live at Plantation Estates in Matthews.  I met Ruth when I spoke at her women’s circle at Providence United Methodist Church last fall, and was most interested when she shared her experience of being a volunteer nurse with Hospice at Charlotte (our name before we became HPCCR) beginning in 1980.  Ruth and Mary continued their service with the organization for an additional 20 years as volunteer nurses.

The HPCCR office was housed in several buildings in Charlotte before we arrived on 7th Street.  The first office was at the old Charlotte hospital, the second was at a Presbyterian church on 5th Street, and third location was at the Plaza Building in the Plaza/Midwood area.  Ruth and Mary remembered Sharon Dixon, who served as the lead nurse, Dr. Bob Fenning who was our first physician, and Hunt Williams who was the volunteer chaplain.  As we do now, the staff met every Wednesday to discuss the patients.  They started out with just three patients and quickly moved to five patients.  Ruth and Mary were surprised to learn we now have close to 600 patients in all of our eight counties!

Ruth told me that the volunteer nurses were also on-call, and when the phone call came in the middle of the night to see a patient, she would call another nurse, as they visited in pairs (after hours).  Ruth recalled on many evenings, they would end their visit with a stop at Krispy Kreme Donuts on Independence Blvd in the wee hours of the morning.

Ruth and Mary had a number of memories: “The minute you walked into the house, you became a part of the family.  You’d sit down and just talk.”  “This was the most gratifying thing I’ve done my whole life (except for raising my son).”  “The patients always made me feel better.”  “It was so rewarding.”  “The patients were so appreciative…”  “The entire experience was a plus!”

When I asked what the challenges were, they both agreed, “It was not challenging.  It was pure joy.”

Having served the organization for the last seven and a half years, first as a chaplain and grief counselor, and now as the Communities of Faith Liaison, I realize a number of things have changed, like the sheer number of patients that are seen by HPCCR and the number of staff needed to address patients’ needs.  However, the compassion, competency, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to make a patient comfortable has not changed.  Then, like now, the first task is always “to relieve suffering and to improve the quality and dignity of life through compassionate hospice care.”   Then, like now, families have many issues to deal with, but the staff’s willingness to talk and to listen without judgment brings hope to the families we serve.

So, on behalf of HPCCR, thank you to Ruth Loucks and Mary Nelson and to the many, many others who chose to volunteer for our patients and their families, especially in the early days of hospice care.   Now, as we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome a brand new year, we are thankful for all of our staff and volunteers alike who make a difference each day by providing excellent end-of-life care and education to our families and to the community.

Ode to Emma (a hospice house chronicle)

May 15, 2013

by Bill Rogers, LDHH-H volunteer

Neither of us had any thought
that our lives might intersect.
Her parents had introduced us
and approved our relationship.

Her long brunette hair
framed her porcelain skin.
We spent a few hours talking
as we watched a movie one evening.

Because she had seen the movie previously,
she explained the plot after reading
my expressions of confusion.

She asked what term of endearment
is used by my grandchildren.
“Then,” she whispered, “I also will call you Billy.”

Without warning, when the movie turned scary,
she leaned in my lap.

Later, looking in my eyes,
she said, “Billy, I like your beard.”
With innocent spontaneity,
she felt my beard, and
she kissed my cheek.

Likely, we will never see each other again.
But Emma has endowed
my mind with memories.

Doubtless, today her roaming attention
has moved beyond our encounter.

But let it be said. . . . last night,
her four-year old heart enfolded me,
her childish trust empowered me.

And, with appreciation,
her twenty-something parents said it was time for her to go.

Her parents had asked me to watch a movie with Emma while they attended the last rites being administered to Emma’s great-grandmother in her room at Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville.  And so goes my continuing chronicle of experiences granted each week in my hospice volunteer work.  Is there any doubt that this time is well spent??

It’s National Volunteer Week!

April 22, 2013

by Alia King, HPCCR Director of Volunteer Services

NationalVolunteerWeekLOGO_2013I’ve given up watching the news. I’ve decided it’s too much of a challenge to turn on the television or go online and find anything positive to read. It’s all too easy to forget about the good things going on in the world when we are so often hit with only the negative. And true, there is a lot out there that is negative, but there’s way more good. The good things aren’t usually shocking enough to make the news, so unfortunately, they get hidden.

So, how’s this for shocking? One incredibly blessed organization with 500 volunteers, almost 34,000 hours of time FREELY GIVEN in 2012 and more than 9,000 hours already in just the first quarter of this year.

That headline would get my attention. In fact, it gets my attention every day when I hear about a wonderful volunteer like Michael, who spends two hours helping a patient with dementia get all dolled up just to see her smile at herself in the mirror. Or about another of our fabulous volunteers, Frank, who adopted a long-term care community during the holidays and took gifts to all 101 residents. Or Kerri and Lauren, two teens who, despite their full courseloads at Charlotte Catholic High School, spend 12 hours a month visiting residents at Huntersville Oaks.  And about Jerusha, Dick, and Troy, three volunteers we are celebrating this year for 20 years of service to our organization.

WOW! Now those are my kind of headlines.

During National Volunteer Week and every week, we thank the dedicated volunteers who serve our patients, families, and staff without ever asking anything in return. We are honored to have you in our midst and grateful you chose us!