Friday, August 21, 2015

Volunteers - Judy "Just to help him cry"

I haven't had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful woman, but after hearing her story, I had to share it here.  I hope you, like me will feel inspired and blessed.  It's a little long, but so worth the read.  

When I think of Judy, this popular expression comes to mind:  
"Bloom Where You Are Planted." 

Even though she has been confined to a wheelchair due to her MS, that doesn't stop her or even slow her down. Her desire to give back to others in gratitude for all of her blessing goes to her very core.  Soon she is going to be transitioning to a long term care facility to live but plans to continue to volunteer at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida and is excited to see how God will use her in this new phase of her life and in this new place.
Judy has a willing and loving spirit... that's all God asks for, and He will do the rest!

By Judy Gorman Petrocy

A four-year-old child, whose elderly neighbor had just lost his wife, saw the man crying.  The little one crawled into the old man’s lap and just sat there.  When he finally slid off his lap, his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor.  The little boy responded, “Nothing.  I just helped him cry”.

One day as I was wondering what I could do in gratitude for all my blessings, I saw a notice in the church bulletin that St. Anthony’s hospital Pastoral Care Department was looking for volunteers to visit patients.  I showed it to it to my husband Paul, since he would have to drive me. and asked if he minded if I looked into it. His response was more than I could have asked for.  He thought he might like to do that as well. Our interview went well and we proceeded to take the training classes.  The classes were great and we got to meet the fantastic Pastoral Care team as well as other wonderful staff members. While we were taking the classes we noticed that whenever we entered the hospital there was an atmosphere of caring and compassion that permeated the entire building.  Everyone we met seemed to smile and greet one another.  People treated us like they knew us and were happy to see us.  We saw people offering to help others without even have been asked and we soon felt like we belonged and were part of the family.

Formal classes were over and we shadowed an experienced Pastoral Care Volunteer and were on our own.  I was assigned to the women’s cancer floor, and two other floors, and Paul to Florida Cancer Specialists, where he visits the patients getting chemo.

I don’t remember much about my first day as I was so concerned about saying the right thing, remembering to wash my hands between patients, knowing what the codes meant, where the fire extinguishers were, and if I was up to all this.  What if they asked me a religious question I couldn’t answer, or didn’t want me there at all.  It was all about me.  Fortunately I got over myself quickly and all that soon dissipated. Just taking some deep breaths, and asking God to let me be His Presence to each patient did the trick. It isn’t about Religion. It is about the patient.

 Walking into each room is an experience like walking into a page of someone else’s Book of Life.  I can’t explain what takes place as each scenario unfolds and I become part of it.  My own life is temporarily suspended and God’s Spirit takes over.  Most are very welcoming and appreciative of the visit and the conversation is light.  We respect all Religions, but actually address the Spiritual aspect of healing. Each patient is unique.  Some have no family and no one to talk to, and are delighted to have someone listen to them.  Some do not want to burden their families but need to get things off their chests. I feel their pains, worries anxieties and vulnerability that come with uncertainty and fear, as well as their joy, gratitude and relief when a situation is resolved.

 One little lady in her nineties, so frail the bed almost swallowed her, sweetly asked me if I would like to hear her story. She said she never married and had no living relatives.  I told her of course I would and she began….I was born in 1924 in a little farmhouse….  I knew I would be there awhile.

As I passed a room one day I heard someone cry out weakly; “Help me. Help me.  Help me”. I turned back and went in to find an elderly woman lying in an awkward position with her arm outstretched and her eyes open but unfocused.  She was trembling and appeared to be in distress.  I took her outstretched hand in mine and she clutched it tightly.  She almost immediately stopped trembling and her breathing evened out.  I told her everything would be all right and that I would get her some help.  She did not respond and her eyes never looked in my direction.  I stayed until she eventually released her grip and was very calm and breathing evenly.  I knew she was in God’s hands.  Then I went to report the incident.  

Then there are the visits that are topsy- turvy. Those are the ones where a patient, though in pain, and in serious or incurable condition, greets me with a smile and tells me how grateful they are for all God’s goodness, their families, a simple kind word, or for just having the gift of life for as long as they have. It is so humbling and reassuring.  Those lessons I tuck into that special place in my heart that I save for all my treasures and call on them when my own ego tries to taunt me into self-pity.

At the end of the visit, unless the patient is a non-believer, I ask if they would like a prayer.  I seldom get a refusal. Spontaneous prayer is my choice and I never know exactly what I will say. When words of wisdom come out, I know it isn’t coming from me. The lesson is for me! I thank them for letting me visit. Once I leave the room, that page closes in their book and I leave it behind. 

I am so grateful for the privilege of having God hitch a ride on my wheelchair as I travel the corridors of St. Anthony’s as a Pastoral Care Volunteer.

Another knock, another patient, another story, another Amazing Grace experience.  Maybe the next patient will need me to just help him cry.

1 comment:

  1. Judy, you are the face of God as you minister in Pastoral Care......a blessing to all whom you touch. Your smile is radiant with love, kindness and compassion. How fortunate the people at St. Anthony's are to have you on their team.