The Student News Site of Mount Vernon High School

The Mustang Moon

The Student News Site of Mount Vernon High School

The Mustang Moon

The Student News Site of Mount Vernon High School

The Mustang Moon

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Impact of a volunteer

By Jillian McGuire

When I first started volunteering at my local nursing home, I had no idea the connections I would discover, or of the stories I would be blessed with the opportunity to hear. I was also sadly unaware of the pain of saying goodbye in such a short span of time.

One day after I had been on a week-long vacation, I came back to see Pam*, a resident, lying in her bed, unable to talk, wrapped in the pink and white blanket I bought her for Christmas. I asked her family for a couple minutes alone to say goodbye, certain this was my last time to say I love you to her in person. She was only 86 and had appeared healthier than most residents. “Wasn’t she finally starting to feel better when I left for vacation?” I wondered with tears streaming down my face. I turned to Pam. “Hey, so I wasn’t expecting this, and I don’t know what to say, but I guess I will start with telling you I love you and thank you for being yourself and giving me an opportunity to talk with you.”

I sat in a church pew holding every emotion in on the Thursday morning of the funeral. I watched the slideshow highlighting the best days of her life, and things began to feel painfully real. I wore a gray and white striped T-shirt dress, and a pink scrunchie on my wrist. Pink always had been her favorite color, and mine, too. Now when I see anything pretty and pink, I am sad, but I am also at peace knowing she is free of pain and lived a life that will never be forgotten.

Once I returned home, I wrapped myself in her blanket, now my blanket, and I took deep breaths as I read the note her family attached to a specialized card. It reads, “Pam’s family thanks you for being so kind to her while she was a resident at Hallmark Care Center. Please continue to be a beam of light to the residents there. My name is Daryl I am Pam’s grandson, I just wanted to leave you a note as to how grateful I am for the things you did for my grandma. I don’t know you at all but you are very special to me. I believe it takes a very special person to work in the field of a volunteer and you are one of those people. I know you are hurting right now just like us.”

Another time I sit with Jane, as she struggles to remember the way back to her room, still getting used to the fact that Hallmark is home for now. I wonder how soon will I be saying goodbye to her, days, months at best. It’s hard knowing everyone you love will someday die, but death only ends a life, not a relationship. I know that everyone here will be gone soon and that all that will remain are the memories. Knowing I can make someone’s day by just letting them talk to me, or even just talking with them has influenced and humbled me in ways I can’t explain.

Terry is in good health, and I laugh sitting in her room on her bed while she works on a puzzle. We talk about anything and everything. I’m shocked that because of a decision I made to volunteer, I met such amazing people with great advice and lots of love for me, almost as if I’m there own grandchild.

I think the most important thing as a volunteer, daughter, son, grandchild, great-grandchild, or person is to visit your grandparents, even if they seem like they won’t remember. Make time for them before it’s time to say goodbye. I strongly believe if you don’t you will regret it. I have never met a person who regrets seeing those they love as much as they possibly can.

My experiences as a volunteer have changed my life in so many ways. They’ve helped shape me into a more compassionate person, become more empathic, and helped me realize that I do have a talent and a passion for helping others.

These experiences have convinced me of my goal to help others and have inspired me to go into a field of work as a geriatric counselor. There I can use my skills and knowledge to help those at the end of there life believe the purpose of life is never lost, just more sacred after we say goodbye.

*All names have been changed

Jillian McGuire
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