Voices of Our Volunteers

Steve

Steve has a special ability to forge a bond with the patients he sees. He takes people where they are and makes no judgments and, as a result, is able to see the essence and humanity of each patient. He combines a wicked sense of humor with a deep spirituality. He is a winner of Pathways’ Volunteer of the Year Award.

Steve says he sees his job very simply: “I am there to let every patient I see know that, although the time they have may be
limited, they are important, loved, and special. That’s it. Every human being deserves to know that and believe that.”

Steve knows personally about the importance of hospice care. His mother received hospice care after ten years of living with
Parkinson’s, and Steve is convinced that care extended her life.

“Hospice has such a positive effect regardless of the situation. Until a person has experienced how hospice can help, they
may not understand the benefits,” he says.  

His experience with his mother has made him a more sensitive volunteer. Many of the patients Steve visits with are in facilities as well. “If a patient needs assistance when eating, I try to go see them at mealtimes so that I can make sure they are fed by the facility staff while the food is still hot. I also like to help them get out of their room and even out of the facility when the weather is good,” he says. “It’s so important to allow the patients to interact with others – with people they might not see in their normal day inside the facility. It perks them up,” Steve explains.

“When I first meet a patient, I always tell them, ‘This hour I spend with you is my hour too and you’re going to get the best hour I have to give,’” Steve says. He has tricks to get even the most withdrawn patient to respond. “I cheat,” he admits cheerfully. “I come in with conversation starters – a newspaper, my military cap, a bible if I know they are Christians – whatever it takes to put them at their ease and get them talking. I’m a big believer in using humor to ease the situation.”

Steve was born in Oakland and grew up in the Bay Area and spent 20 years in the U.S. Army. He can often relate to other men—men who were formerly homeless, or who have had drug and alcohol addiction problems in their pasts.

“I learn so much from all my patients. Sometimes there is good within that has been clouded over by the trials of life. I’m not there to judge them. I’m just there to help eradicate some of the pain. We’re all here temporarily,” Steve says. “Being on hospice gives you an opportunity to prepare yourself for whatever comes next. That’s a gift.”


 

Christy

When 89-year-old Madeline met volunteer Christy Yuen, she knew her time was short and her priority was to record her memories. Madeline, a French woman, had a remarkable story to tell.

Christy visited her only three times before her sudden death. During those hours she typed quickly, Madeline’s voice whisking them back into history. Madeline told tales of her time in World War II as a resistance fighter and of her father piloting his plane on missions over enemy lines. She told stories of the effects of war: deaths, stillbirths, widows and orphans

Christy was the means for Madeline to review her life, and as she told her story she realized the importance and meaning of her life.

Madeline passed away suddenly, her memoirs unfinished. But she had passed on much of her learnings and wisdom. Christy was grateful for the privilege of hearing Madeline’s memories, and like many volunteers and hospice nurses, she felt she received more than she gave. She told us, “For the insight she dispensed with such wit and character, and for all the reminders of what is truly important in life, I would like to thank Madeline; merci beaucoup.”