More than a blood relation

Ashfaq Awan – Client – Palliative Services

The doctor said he couldn’t survive more than a year and a half. I always thought he had six months left, six months left, six months left. I was always stressed throughout this life. Whenever I needed help, she was there to help us. I always ask her what I could do for this problem or that problem and she’s always gentle and kind to us. It has really helped us come out of that stress. When you are all alone and there’s no one around you, my family was back home, and my husband was all the time on the bed, she treated us more than a blood relation that could console you. And she did that for us.

Click play to hear a full interview with Ashfaq’s wife below: 

I help people to find meaning from loss

Betty Ann Rutledge – Volunteers, Outreach & Training Community Hospice & Friendly Visiting Program

I met him when I first started in 1991. My Mom had just been diagnosed with cancer and so for the six months that she lived, he actually helped me prepare for her death. Like here is a man, who he himself was living with a terminal illness, and at the time when life expectancy for people with HIV was not great. It was before all the drug treatments. He saw something in me that was worth tending to. You know, he knew that I coming in young, fresh, and full of energy. You know, as an activist. My friend, Ted, was tested HIV positive and I was wanting to be involved. And I think he saw what a big heart I had and I think he saw if I wasn’t companioned well on the journey I was on—with my Mom and Ted—I was not going to be able to sustain doing this work. And I think he saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself.

Click play to hear a full interview with Betty Ann below: 

No longer fearing death

Catherine Ho – Volunteer Palliative Program

I no longer fear death. And I think I know when it’s a good death so that helps me as far as my illness and helps me to be a better person. I’ve gone through two life-theatening diseases, the return of my cancer, but now I am still living. So I think when it comes it comes. I no longer worry about life or death.

Felt like I was left on an island by myself

Novelette Munroe – Client and Volunteer – Bereavement Program

It’s not something a teenager or a 20-year-old typically thinks about. That their life will be cut shorter than the average person and so it was something I had to think about. And then, be there for my friends as they experienced all their ailments that eventually took their lives and wonder at the same time when that would happen to me.

Click play to hear a full interview with Novelette below: 

I went to change someone’s life, but my life got changed instead

Charanjit Singh – Child/Youth Health Program Coordinator

I like to walk the talk so I was challenging myself that I need to volunteer too. So I looked into our hospice program and they had a client that they wanted to see if I would go and visit him. So I am like, “Sure, I am happy to make a change in someone’s life.” And I started to visit him and his wish was to visit the Sikh temple once a week on Saturday mornings. “Yes, sure, I can definitely drive you there.” And there was one catch, he wanted to go at 7 a.m. on Saturdays. So I was like, “OK, yes, I can manage that.” And so we started doing it. So I got to tell you, on some Friday nights coming home from work or had a party or something, I was like, man, I don’t think I’d be able to wake up tomorrow morning. Maybe I should just call him. Then there was one time that I actually did call, I was just so tired, and I was hoping we could skip tomorrow. I called and the phone was ringing and I was feeling so bad and I was thinking maybe I should hang up and then he picked up. He’s like, “Hello,” I am like, “Uncle, it’s Charanjit,” and he said, “Oh, Charanjit, I was looking forward to tomorrow and I just can’t wait.” And I was like, oh man, I guess I see you tomorrow. And I hung up and when I go there he would stand on his curb and he was having such a smile on his face. And he just lit right up and that would be my sunrise in the morning. And I remember driving him there and seeing how much gratitude he had, how much appreciation he had just so I can accompany him. It’s really something I never forget. I always think to myself that I went to change someone’s life, but my life got changed instead.

Click play to hear a full interview with Charanjit below: 

My mother died a good death

Anita Stern – Nurse – Navigator – Palliative Care Team

We took them to a psychiatrist because at first, I thought maybe I am crazy. Like, what is this that I am searching for that I don’t have and that I believed to be different? The psychiatrist said, “Well, let me meet the children and then meet your husband.” So the kids came to the office with my husband at the time and she said to them. “Now, describe your mother to me. And now describe your father.” My second child said to the psychiatrist, “You see that book on the shelf? That’s my father. You see the paper scatter across your desk? That’s my mother.” And I thought, what a brilliant analogy! And so at the end of this conversation, the psychiatrist said, “So I hear you said you don’t really understand why your parents are together and that they are really so different that they would be happier on their own parenting you.” And that’s how it ended.

Click play to hear a full interview with Anita below: 

I was an at-risk teenager

Annakim Ffrench – Youth Service Navigator

I was an at-risk teenager. Got pregnant when I was 15 and I had my son when I was 16 so at that point, it was like I faced a lot of challenges. Going to school. I was still in high school. I went to school straight up until my due day. My son came two weeks late and I was still in school. Teachers told me to go home but in my mind, I had this fear of not being successful because that was what society labeled that population as people that have children at the young age are less likely to be successful. That’s not 100% true because I know that I came above those odds but for me, it was challenging.

Click play to hear a full interview with Annakim below: 

Having pity for them doesn’t make them feel great

Rashme Nanda – Volunteer – Child/Youth Health Program

We were sitting in the lecture hall at the end of class and he said, “Nobody listens anymore.” And I am like, “What do you mean?” Then he said, “Nobody really listens to anybody. They just kind of listen to respond. They don’t listen to understand.” It hit me like a ton of bricks and I think that’s the one thing I can point out that’s kind of instill in myself that I have to actually listen to people.

Click play to hear a full interview with Rashme below: 

I was struggling for my own survival

Debra McGonegal – Fund and Volunteer Development Manager

I was left with three kids, totally unexpected. I had to get back to work and my minister was on the board for Home for Pregnant Teens. I took this position as the volunteer coordinator and I had never felt so valued. All my other work experience seemed so… not worthless, but nothing was as important as these girls gravitating towards me because I understood. I had coped as a single parent and they just loved being around me and I loved helping them. At the end of my contract, they actually got a petition and got people to sign to keep my job, but there was no funding for it. That was where my love for non-profit started. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else after that but working for an organization that doesn’t care about the bottom line as much as how many people they can help.

Click play to hear a full interview with Debra below: 

She had to hold our dead son in her arms

Paula Paunic – Volunteer – Palliative and Bereavement Program – Pregnancy – Infant Loss

The husband at first was a little bit hesitant to share what he was feeling because he felt his grief wasn’t… He kept downplaying his grief, “My grief isn’t as important as my wife’s. She had to carry our son for 21 weeks and be induced and hold our dead son in her arms. I can’t even compare my grief to hers.” And it’s so important in this organization that we let men know that their grief is just as valuable and just as important and the journey of healing is important.

Click play to hear a full interview with Paula below: