The tiniest moments make the biggest memories. The way one patient smiled with delight at the suggestion of a foot rub. Or the twinkle in another's eye when she looked at the photographs I took of her garden, the garden she hadn't been outside to see in more than two years.
When I bring my guitar to work with me, those small moments are bigger than life itself. Sometimes, I'll catch a glimpse of a patient's foot keeping time to the music under the covers. Occasional singing along, relaxed smiles or peaceful snoring accompany me. The genuine expression of thanks that shines in their eyes and in my heart.
One patient's son also plays guitar. We had an impromptu jam session on a Sunday afternoon and swapped songs for hours, much to our own and his dad's delight. Though our musical styles were completely different, the pure, loving energy that filled the room was palpable. The patient talked about it for weeks as the best music he'd ever heard and how much it meant to him.
For me, being a hospice volunteer gives me the opportunity to come up with new ways to tell someone how special they are. It might include remembering to send a postcard when I'm away or making sure there's enough rock salt on hand for the front steps and driveway before a big snowstorm. Maybe it includes running an errand or giving someone else a chance to run one. And every once in a while, there's a chance to do something really, really fun.
A new ice cream parlor had opened in town and my patient and her three elderly sisters were anxious to hear the details. I promised that the next time I came, if it was a hot enough day to warrant it, I'd treat everyone to ice cream.
My next scheduled visiting day arrived and, sure enough it was a real scorcher. I grabbed my insulated picnic bag and a blue ice container and drove to Main Street Sweets. I wrote a list of all the flavors and arrived at the sisters' house on schedule. Then I sat with each one, reading and re-reading the list as they imagined each flavor until they made their decisions. One Peppermint, one Rum Raisin, one Butter Pecan and one Strawberry. I opted for Butterscotch Ripple.
Armed with my list, I went back to the ice cream store and bought double scoops all around. I loaded up my insulated bag and high-tailed it back to the house, hoping the ice cream would make the journey in tact. We all gathered in the upstairs bedroom, spoons at the ready. I handed out the containers and each sister complained that I'd bought too much, that they could never eat so much ice cream. But one bite led to the next, as it often does with ice cream, and before long, there wasn't a bite left. There was giggling and delight, and for that moment, the room was filled with a giddy bunch of schoolgirls, enjoying the cool of an ice cream on a mid-summer's day.
Now, months later as the snow swirls outside my window, the ice cream and two of the sisters are long gone. But the sound of their laughter and the image of our ice cream party on that sweltering day will be a part of my mind's landscape for as long as I live.
©2001 Sandi Kimmel
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