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Volunteer Susan LaVine

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Susan LaVine

susan lavine volunteer

April is Volunteer Month, a time to recognize the selfless contributions of individuals across various sectors. In the realm of hospice care, volunteers like Susan LaVine play an indispensable role, offering comfort and companionship to those in their final stages of life. However, what many do not realize is that while the intention might be to give, the act of volunteering often rewards the giver in profound and unexpected ways.

An Unexpected Journey

Susan LaVine, a dedicated volunteer with the Compassus hospice program in Colorado Springs, shares her transformative experience, revealing the true essence of volunteer work. Having joined the hospice as a volunteer ten months after the loss of her own spouse, Susan anticipated her role would primarily involve providing support to others. Yet, her journey unfolded differently. In her own words, Susan shares her story about the treasured gifts she received from her hospice patients and their families.


By Susan LaVine

I have been blindsided. In the filled chapel the military honor guard unfurls the flag, preparing it for final inspection and presentation to Mr. B’s now widowed wife. Mr. B was one of the first hospice patients I was assigned to visit. Each visit was an amazing hour or so of incredible stories of his life. I could see the joy as he retold each story. In the chapel, family members stood to share their stories and memories of Mr. B., the very same stories I had gotten to hear and know as well.

I had become a hospice volunteer ten months previously following the loss of my own spouse. I thought, I believed, it would be something I could help do, provide a listening ear, a friendly smile, support others on their hospice journey. Was I wrong! Through these months, week in and week out of my visits to Compassus hospice residents, I was the one given so many gifts. They gave me glimpses of their varied lives, each new shared story adding layers of colors and depth for me to see them beyond the hospice room. My knock on their door and ‘hello,’ always greeted with a welcoming smile. Most visits were filled with their stories -sprinkled with laughter and tidbits of gossip on the quality of last night’s dinner but then – and invariably always they would ask me, “And how are you?”  The friendships grew.

Oh, the gifts I have been given. A beautiful summer day sitting on the Memory Care veranda with Ms. L, enjoying the garden and breeze. Ms. L. would point to the various garden ornaments, delighting in their presence, no longer able to name them exactly but delighting in them all the same. She would turn to me with that spark in her eyes and smile to see if I caught her mismatched names. Then we would laugh. Such a peaceful hour spent enjoying a summer afternoon. She passed a few days after Christmas. One evening shortly after her passing I stepped out onto my dark and snow-covered patio. I paused, then looked again to the corner of my patio where an old lantern that needed a new battery had been sitting for months. Its light was now twinkling and sparkling in the corner. I laughed and shook my head, sure there was a probable explanation but enjoying the improbable all the same.

In the chapel, the final corners of the flag are now precisely pressed and creased by the honor guard and the flag reverently passed to Mr. B’s wife. I am blindsided again as a tear slips down.

An Exchange of Gifts

Susan’s story underscores a common misconception about volunteering: the belief that the volunteer is primarily the giver. Instead, the exchange is mutual, with volunteers often finding that they receive just as much, if not more, than they contribute. Susan’s journey is a testament to the endless rewards of volunteering, which go beyond simple acts of service to foster deep and lasting human connections. For those inspired by Susan’s story, volunteering with a hospice program like Compassus offers a unique opportunity to not only make a difference in the lives of others but to enrich one’s own life in the process.

To learn more about how to become a volunteer and discover the endless rewards that come with it, click here.