ALBERTON -- They are often found at bedsides, helping families care for loved ones who are dying.
On December 6, 7 and 8, though, several West Prince Hospice Palliative Care Association volunteers will be situated at tables in the O’Leary and Tignish Co-op and Alberton Save Easy grocery stores, conducting their annual “Let Their Light Shine” campaign.
“Our tree of lights is a small reminder to people that they are not alone in their remembrance this Christmas season,” said West Prince Hospice coordinator Pat Arsenault.
For a small donation, individuals can place a ribboned card with the name of a loved one on one of the lights on the tree on display and then twist the bulb so that it lights.
Although Let their Lights Shine is one of the association’s main fund-raising activities every year, Arsenault admits the event plays an even greater role. “It’s an opportunity for people to tell their own story that surrounded the loss of their loved one.”
Over the course of the three days more and more tags get added until the remembrance tree at each location glows with light.
Funds raised assist with public education and awareness about hospice and supports hospice services. Arsenault estimates she has a network of about 50 active hospice volunteers. While many of them assist at the bedsides of people who are dying, some help in other capacities, including awareness and fundraising.
Volunteers, she said, often sit with the dying on their journey and assist family members at a difficult time in their lives. Sometimes they only get called in at the final hours and on some occasion they are part of a patient’s final journey for months, and sometimes the patients make a full recovery.
Often, she said, the volunteers get caught up in the grieving process, too.
Despite the grief, volunteers say the service they provide enriches their own lives, too.
“They teach me a lot. Just their patience and courage, especially their courage,” said longtime volunteer Genevieve McAlduff. “I’ve gotten so much courage just from sitting with people who are dying.”
Knowing that she is able to help the patient and the family provides a sense of calm, she acknowledged.
Sometimes, added fellow volunteer Eleanor Perry, there are topics that patients find just too painful to talk to their family about and need to get the words out and will share them with the volunteer.
Sometimes the patient just wants the volunteer to sit with them, and that’s what they do. Often their role is one of comfort and reassurance.