Butterflies, Caring and Grieving

The following was written by Covenant Hospice Volunteer Norma Johnson.  Thank you Norma, for sharing your story with us.

I love butterflies!  Their beauty, grace, delicacy, strength to dip and soar thrills me.  Covenant Hospice, the group to which I have given much of my time, energy and love, has the butterfly as its symbol.  I’ve often wondered about this coincidence. 

I am a volunteer and co-team leader of the volunteers at our local hospice residence, a home for the terminally ill.

We were first clients of hospice several years ago.  My mother, at 87, had a heart that began to die on her.  After several hospital stays, her cardiologist gave me a long look and said, “She’s terminal.” The journey began.

My husband and I closed out her apartment and moved her into our home.  We enrolled in Covenant Hospice and my beloved butterflies took on a new, much deeper meaning. 

Was it easy? NO! I have never been so physically exhausted in my life.  I was an active, young 65 but getting up several times a night and being on my feet all day zapped me.  Crunchy peanut butter on apple wedges became a staple in my lunch diet.  Hospice sent us a supportive social worker and a cheerful aide to bathe mother and give her backrubs.  Mother’s nurse was a young woman, wise and with an inner and outer beauty, whom I came to love as a daughter.  Emotionally and spiritually, I am very grateful for those months.  I finally came to the point that I could thank God for that rough time. 

Mother was not always easy to deal with and it has been a steadily growing process for me – painful, poignant, and illuminating.  She first had a “nervous breakdown” (I’m glad that terminology has changed) when I was six months pregnant with our first child.  The reversal of roles accelerated.  When she died peacefully in November 1992, I felt sorrow, joy for her joining my Dad whom she had missed so much, and relief for her and all of us.  She told us near the end, “I’m so happy here.”  She needed that.

Our hospice nurse suggested I take the training to be a volunteer.  A seed was planted.  Two years later, after my training, I called the hospice residence and applied to be a volunteer there. 

The past five years have been a kaleidoscope of emotions, events and people – what a wonder and heartache.  I find that I am comfortable with death and realize, with awe, what a gift of grace.  A friend has said, “I don’t see how you can do it.”  I find that I cannot not do it.  The pain is there but what a beauty there is in pain at times.  My heart holds the precious little lady who, when I went into her room on Good Friday told me with a sad face, “I’m so sad, my Savior died this day.”  I answered, “But He arose.” “Yes,” she responded with a beautiful smile.  The gentle, stoic Asian man who had great pain which our hospice strove to relieve and was able to make him comfortable, remains with me.  The AIDS patient with the mental condition was a challenge.  The 18-year old, his single mother’s only child, touched all of us.  The staff amazes me.  My fellow volunteers have become a family in ministry. 

The butterfly soars, dips to the flowers to be nourished, moves around us and then mounts to the sky on delicate but strong wings. 

Life, death, and then, life again.

Norma is a volunteer with the Covenant Hospice Joyce Goldenberg Inpatient Residence  and the Pensacola and Milton branches of Covenant Hospice.  Volunteering with Covenant is a greatly rewarding experience.  Have you had a meaningful volunteer experience?  Share it with us!

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One Response to “Butterflies, Caring and Grieving”

  1. What a beautiful story and a lovely example of how much Covenant means to volunteers!

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