by Brenda Podolak
I have been a patient volunteer with Hospice of the Red River Valley for the past three and a half years. Throughout the past year, I have had the good fortune of visiting with one very special lady named Evelyn. How grateful I am for the life-long lessons that our time together has taught me. Each visit is different, some full of heartache and sadness, and others full of hope and sunshine. Being present and showing someone you care is what really matters in the end, and it is the simple things we decide to do that make the biggest difference. From day one, I knew we were matched together for a good reason; our moments shared have changed me in countless ways. Journaling and writing is how I keep those memories alive.
This poem is a tribute to her.
Your flowered scarf moves gracefully in the breeze as I push you down the bumpy sidewalk. The beautiful day speaks for us … the sunshine, the falling leaves, the acorns gathered at our feet. We take in the sounds of nature and a deep breath as we witness God’s creation all around.
I think to myself how blessed I am to have spent a whole year with you. We know our time on this sweet earth is not in our hands and most others I see are for a few months, a few weeks or sometimes just a day.
I consider each hour in your presence an honor and a privilege.
I reach down and pick up the biggest acorn I can find and gently lay it in your hand and wrap your delicate fingers around it for the ride home. Some days are not easy for you, at 89 with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, your struggles are clear. Your confusion and physical weakness get in the way of how you really want to be.
I remind myself that I need to see your reality, not mine. But I want you to know that even though you forget my name, you always remember to smile at me, you can’t hold a cup, but you can carry a tune …”Amazing Grace,” your favorite.
I love your courage, it gives me hope.
You are tired now and before you close your eyes to rest, I carefully take the acorn from your hand and place it on the nightstand next to our little collection of things—things that matter just to us. You have touched my heart in so many ways, and I have learned so much from you in our time together … and what amazes me is how a perfect stranger in the beginning can quickly turn to a faithful friend.
I will never forget how I came into your life to help, and in return, I was the one who was helped. You have taken my eyes off of me, and on to you to see your story and purpose. Most importantly, you have proven to me that the end of life can be every bit as beautiful as the beginning.
For more information about volunteering with Hospice of the Red River Valley, visit our website or call (800) 237-4629.
Brenda Podolak is a patient care volunteer with Hospice of the Red River Valley.
About Hospice of the Red River Valley
In 1981, Hospice of the Red River Valley was founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to high-quality end-of-life care. We fulfill our nonprofit mission by providing medical, emotional, personal and spiritual care, as well as grief support to our patients, their families and caregivers during a tender time in life. Our staff helps those we serve experience more meaningful moments through exceptional hospice care, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, wherever a patient calls home. The organization serves more than 40,000 square miles in North Dakota and Minnesota, including in and around Bismarck, Detroit Lakes, Devils Lake, Fargo, Fergus Falls, Grand Forks, Lisbon, Thief River Falls, Valley City and many more communities. Hospice of the Red River Valley offers round-the-clock availability via phone, prompt response times and same-day admissions, including evenings, weekends and holidays. Contact us anytime at 800-237-4629 or hrrv.org.