Sitting at the bedside of someone who is dying can be uncomfortable. For some, there is fear of the unknown, and for others, overwhelming sadness in watching a loved one pass away. Some family members rush to be there at the end, and others say it’s too difficult for them to be present. And then there are people who willingly sign up to be there when needed, in the absence of family, with a commitment to ensuring that no one dies alone. Our Lady of Peace hospice volunteers Nathan Vargovcik, Andrew Nath, and Pam Tavernier are three of those people.
Recently, Nathan, Andrew, and Pam shared their feelings about being present with OLP patients at end-of-life, and the peace they find at the bedside. They agreed to allow us to share them with you:
When I’m holding Vigil – by Nathan Vargovcik
I think it’s the most beautiful thing. I can’t explain it; it’s a total mystery completely beyond me, but for me. Being face to face with dying is like being face to face with God, and being able to be there and share love with someone at that point in their journey is the most beautiful gift. When I’m holding vigil with someone, there’s nowhere I’d rather be, there’s nothing that seems more important than that time and space. And that’s not to romanticize death, because it’s also really heartbreaking, difficult, and often devastating, but I think that makes the love even deeper, and the experience more profound.
Last Night at OLP – by Andrew Nath
I awoke yesterday morning not wanting to go to my evening OLP shift. I was looking for the motivation to volunteer but could not find it. I arrived at OLP out of obligation more than anything else, and I spent most of it with one patient who was actively dying. I sat with her and held her hand as she took her final breaths. Her last breath was surreal. I was holding her hand and I did not know she took her last breath until I realized she was not going to take another breath. After 30 or 45 seconds the nurse came in and I told her about the time between breaths; she confirmed she passed away. That journey into death was quiet. There was little fanfare. No family or friends were there. I don’t know if she felt her hand in mine, but I certainly understood the significance of being with her in those quiet and final moments. It is my privilege and blessing to sit with OLP Patients in their final hours.
Hospice is certainly a different walk/path – Poems by Pam Tavernier
Can’t You Just Sit With Me Awhile
Can’t you just sit with me awhile
It’s getting dark and I am afraid
The day was so long, but the nights are even longer.
I know this is uncomfortable for you,
But can you just sit with me for awhile?
I Played Scrabble With A Dying Man Today
I played Scrabble with a dying man today
His days are long, breathing labored
Distraction, fellowships the real game
As he can no longer walk
As the work of breathing takes most of his energy
But he can talk
And I can listen
And we can play the real game which is
Today I went back to play a game of
Scrabble with the dying man
But he no longer needed distraction,
Nor comfort or fellowship.
His days are completed.
I am so glad
I played Scrabble with that dying man.
We are grateful to Nathan, Andrew, and Pam for sharing kindness and love with patients.
They are truly a gift to Our Lady of Peace.