My journey with hospice

George Fulvio, Mission Hospice direct care volunteer

For a few hours each week, I offer emotional support and companionship to patients who are in the final days of their lives. This work has been – along with the birth of my daughter – one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.

When I retired from my law practice in 2003, I knew I wanted to be of more service in some way, but hospice was not even on my mind. At a social function, I ran into a former client who was on the Mission Hospice board and suggested that I would be a good hospice volunteer.

This was not what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I hesitated, but with my wife’s encouragement agreed to at least start the training classes.

That was almost ten years ago.

When I knocked on my first patient’s door, my heart was beating double-time as I wondered what was waiting for me. But I have never felt more welcomed into homes than I am as a Mission Hospice volunteer.

Most people I speak with about hospice say that they don’t think they could handle being with people who are dying. I consider it a great honor to be invited into someone’s home when life is so real, when the present is all that matters. In fact, I always ask to be placed with those who are the closest to death because it is with them that I feel my deepest emotions.

Our motto at Mission Hospice is “It’s about life,” which means to me that although our patients are dying, we can help them live their last days.

People often ask me what I talk about with my patients. My answer is always the same: They set the agenda. My place is to listen and be present with them. Sometimes I may read to them, sometimes feed them, and always I listen to them.

In the end, what I do with them is not nearly as meaningful as the simple fact that I am there. I have so many wonderful memories of my relationships with patients.

As each life nears its end, all that is left for me to do is sit quietly with them. They know I am there, and may show it in a smile or a squeeze of my hand.

Then it is over, and I turn them over to God with a prayer. My work is done with these beautiful souls.