Being By Your Side is His Calling
For 80-year-old Pat McMahon, sitting with a dying patient at their bedside in their final hours is more than an act of caring. He considers it a sacred calling. As a By Your Side volunteer for Hospice of the Western Reserve, he travels across 11 counties whenever he is needed to provide a compassionate presence.
A deeply spiritual man, Pat said he will go anywhere anytime. “When I am called, I usually ask, `What’s your toughest one to fill?’ Those are the assignments I like to take. This is what I am meant to do. There is no question.”
It was a personal experience that first drew Pat to Hospice of the Western Reserve. “My wife and I had a close friend diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” he said. “Every night we drove over to the hospice house on E. 185th Street to visit her. I remember walking out to the parking lot the day she died. I said to my wife, ‘‘You know, Earlene, this is God’s work. This is what I want to do when I retire.’”
Pat was so inspired that he did not wait until retirement. During the last five years of his career, he completed 16 hours of volunteer education and started volunteering nights and weekends. When he retired, he increased his commitment and now considers being a By Your Side volunteer his highest priority. An avid golfer who enjoys a regular tee time with a foursome of buddies, it’s not unusual for Pat to throw his clubs in the trunk and turn the car around on the way to a golf outing if he gets a call for help.
Tragically, Pat lost his wife, Earlene, a year and a half ago following a severe stroke. “She was rushed to the ER and the doctor told me she was very ill. He recommended hospice. I told him there is only one hospice we wanted: Hospice of the Western Reserve. Earlene and I were high school sweethearts. We were married 54 years.”
Pat’s compassion knows no limits. For several years, he has also volunteered at summer camps for grieving children led by trained grief support specialists with Western Reserve Grief Services. About one year into his volunteer experience he learned Hospice of the Western Reserve provides pediatric hospice care. He asked if he could help. His first visit with a pediatric patient is one he will never forget.
“I went to see a six-year-old girl who had been institutionalized all her life. Someone had placed a dollhouse on her tray table. I sat quietly for a while and then I asked: ‘Can I play with you?’ She nodded her head. Five minutes into it I received a sharp little slap on my hand. She said, ‘That doesn’t go there!’ I had placed a kitchen chair in the dollhouse dining room. After that, the two of us played for about an hour and a half. I knew I had to leave soon, so I asked, “Is it okay if I come back?” She looked at me for a long time. Then she said, “I love you.” How can an experience like that not touch you?”
Volunteers are at the very heart of our mission. They contribute in countless ways. Serving the By Your Side program, providing clerical assistance and helping out at Warehouse Sales are just a few examples. Do you have a special hobby, talent or skill? Let us tailor an opportunity just for you! For more information, visit hospicewr.org/volunteer or call 216.255.9090.