Monday, April 6, 2020

A Volunteer's Calling (Poem)

“Defining Moments” is a poem I wrote after a series of events led to my becoming a hospice volunteer. Hospice volunteering crept up on me unnoticed during the HIV-AIDS pandemic that was one of the world’s most serious public health challenges. Early in the 1980's, the Centers for Disease Control reported five cases of AIDS in young homosexual men in Los Angeles, California. By 1994, AIDS had become the leading cause of death for all Americans ages 25 to 44.

Before the 1990's, I was not attracted to being actively involved in the healthcare field. I also wasn't skilled in caregiving at a personal level, sometimes feeling awkward around sick people in general. Nobody is more surprised than yours truly that I have been a satisfied hospice volunteer over 20 years involved with bedside caregiving in nursing homes, eldercare consulting, authoring a book, and eldercare blogging. You can read about my compelling transformation that includes a video in this LinkedIn article titled "Hospice Volunteer? No Thanks, Not Me!" (Video 3:25).

“Defining Moments” is one of 16 original poems at the end of each chapter of my book titled Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes. Several readers have told me that “Defining Moments” resonates with them when they read it. As a writer, I appreciate knowing when something I have written connects with other people. But I was especially surprised one day when a man I did not know well had actually memorized the entire poem and approached me while reciting it aloud. This was followed by his sharing a heartfelt explanation of a defining moment in his own life. Perhaps this poem will remind you of a defining moment in your life when past met future.

Defining Moments

They come without warning,
grab us in chokeholds of change,
fling us into outer space
where past meets future.
In this realm resonating
with first-time knowledge,
we awaken wide-eyed,
infused with wisdom
to turn around, stand still
or move forward with clarity.
No matter how they smack,
stroke, lift, drop, push, kiss
or kick us to get our attention,
when they finish their mission,
we are permanently scarred.

© Frances Shani Parker


Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.