As part of a senior-level service learning class at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, Vollman had to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Along with a fellow classmate, the 2018 graduate spent her 90-minute class volunteering at the Hospice of the Western Reserve’s David Simpson Hospice House. They socialized with families who were experiencing their last days with a loved one and made art projects with children. Sometimes, the students met bedside with patients who were interested in talking with them about life or just about the weather. Vollman, now attending Concordia University Ann Arbor, shares what it was like to spend time helping in a place that provides end-of-life care, support for families and bereavement services.
You can’t think about yourself and how you are feeling when you are volunteering there, because it’s not about you.
The toughest situations were seeing people after they passed away with their families by their sides. You can’t really do anything to help in that moment, so you have to keep going along with the day. But it’s hard after you experience something like that.
Most of the time, the families would come up to me and ask why I was there. When you help others, you feel good about it. I would go back to my school day with that energy.
Families saw me as someone different than the nurse or doctors they are used to. Lots of times they just needed someone to talk to, and I was the one who was there. They might talk about their situation or whatever came to mind.
One patient was a graduate of VASJ in the 1960s. I brought him a sweater from the school and a yearbook from the time he was there. We looked at it together. We had something in common, and I felt he enjoyed that. It was personal.
I did a lot of baking and would take cookies and brownies around to people’s rooms. When children were there, I’d do crafts with them — give the parents a break and let the kids forget where they are. I’m not sure if many of them understood because they were young.
It’s about helping others get through the circumstances they are in. You never know what someone is going through. — as told to Kristen Hampshire