Before I became a mom over 9 years ago, I worked as a social worker for Hospice. I absolutely loved my job, but knew that once I became a mom, that job was more important and I left Hospice behind. I did volunteer for them for awhile, but found my home life made it difficult for me to continue doing that….until recently. I refreshed my training and became a Hospice volunteer once again. I have had a few patients since I have started back up and I realized again how much I believe in this service. To be able to be a part of someones final journey is truly a privilege and I cherish every moment of it.
Last week I met my newest patient for the very first time as well as her daughter. My newest friend is 97 and lives in a nursing home. She is blind, hard of hearing, and has no short term memory. My first thought was “great…how am I going to visit with her?” But, last week, I had a nice visit with the daughter who was able to give me some background on her mom, while I sat and held the mother’s hand. In our conversation the daughter shared that her mom is a Christian and loved going to church and singing the “old hymns”. So, I decided that the next visit I would bring a hymnal and read the old hymns to her. Because she is so hard of hearing I thought it would be easier to read them loudly than to sing them loudly! 🙂 So, today, that is just what I did.
When I walked in I told her who I was and chatted a little bit, then I told her what I had brought to read to her today. Her face lit up and she smiled! I started right in with “Sweet, Sweet Spirit”, then “Sweet Hour of Prayer”, and moved on to “The Old Rugged Cross”. I read 15 different hymns to her today. I had never READ a hymn. So many of them I could sing by heart and know them instantly by the melody. But, I had never READ them. The words are beautiful and carry such meaning and lessons. I saw her mouthing the words several times and both of us had tears in our eyes throughout the visit. I am so grateful that God brought us together and gave me the idea to read these hymns to her. I am anxious to go back next week and read them again. She is such a blessing to me and I pray that God stays with her during her final days on this Earth and makes those days comfortable and pain free for her.
If this sounds like something you would be interested in doing, contact your local Hospice program and find out about their next volunteer training. There are many ways you can offer support to the families, like running errands for the caregiver, mowing the lawn, washing dishes, or staying with the patient while the caregiver goes to the store, church, or just out for a walk. You will not regret the time you spend with a family in Hospice.
Wonderful ministry, reading hymns to seniors! I encourage you to keep it up. And I agree with you that reading a hymn often unlocks its meaning in a new way. These are devotional poems, after all. They are written to be sung, but many work well as poems too.