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Life Lessons as a Hospice Volunteer: Beryl’s Story

When Beryl first met her Hospice client, he was sitting outside in the sunshine, smiling and talking to the people around him.

“He didn’t look 102,” recalls Beryl. “I introduced myself, and he was very welcoming and had a warm, sincere smile.”

Beryl, a Circle of Care Hospice volunteer, visited her client for three years. They watched videos that had been selected for him by his grandson. They chatted. Beryl’s client had a wide range of interests, including music, museums, science, history, technology, plays, and current events. He spoke several languages. He liked to share stories about his many travels with Beryl, and also opened up about his harder experiences, including life during the Holocaust.

Whenever he shared a story with Beryl, she was often taken aback by the details that he remembered from his life and his travels. “He could recall the location of pictures in the Louvre and other art galleries and museums around the world. He knew the names of plays, operas, symphonies, ballets, and artists.”

Beryl recalls that her client was very accepting of his life and the people around him. “He was always very grateful, kind and giving. Where he could have been arrogant, he was genuinely humble. He was fascinated by the remarkable world we live in.”

“He was a rare and special man,” says Beryl. “Every time I was about to leave he took my hand in both of his and said, ‘Thank you and goodbye.’ I always left feeling that the visit was special – being in his presence was special.”

Beryl’s client passed away on April 11. Although he was suffering from a life-limiting illness, he ultimately died from COVID-19.

Beryl acknowledges the many life lessons she learned from her client. “I learned that it doesn’t matter how long a person lives, but rather how much they have lived. Because no matter how long we have to prepare to say goodbye, there is never enough time for those we love.”

Beryl is one of 45 Circle of Care hospice volunteers who care for clients with a terminal or life-limiting illness. Hospice volunteers are a specialized group of volunteers who offer many services that include companionship, emotional support and practical assistance to our clients and short-term relief to client families and caregivers. Hospice volunteers are specially trained (mandatory 30 hour training) and are asked to commit to 2-4 hours per week. Training is free and is offered three times a year: winter, spring and fall. While we are currently unable to accept new Hospice volunteers at the moment due to the pandemic, we ask that you consider becoming a Hospice volunteer in the future.