Volunteer Spotlight: Fran Gillis

Name: Fran Gillis

How long have you been a volunteer?

Five years.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do?

Patient care in the Care Center.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I thought when I retired, because I had had so many meetings and things when I was working, that I would volunteer as a speaker for hospice. But then the years went by and so many other things came up and I didn’t. Then my husband became ill, very suddenly, and we had no previous warning. None the less, when they discovered it, because there were no symptoms, he had stage four lung cancer.

To make a long story short, after many radiation treatments and a week of chemo, he became bedridden. He couldn’t walk from the summer until he passed away in November. My neighbor had said, “Don’t wait too long to get hospice, I wish I had gotten hospice before for my mother.” When I was bathing Bill, we were both soaking wet, and I thought, I need hospice. So I called Angela Hospice and they came and interviewed him. They were just a godsend to our family. They made his death so beautiful. They totally prepared us for his passing, and he had quality time with all of his children. My daughters alternated coming home to give me a hand and it worked out beautifully. He passed very peacefully. In the meantime, the girls learned a lot about their father that they never knew because they had time to sit and talk with him, and he was willing to share things that he had never shared before. It was quite a wonderful experience and I thought, that’s it, after Bill passes, I’m going to volunteer at hospice.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?

The interaction with the patients. We talk a lot – I am a talker – they share a lot of things and I try to share with them. I just find the personalities intriguing. Everyone has a story. I love to read stories about people and I love people. The patients have given me such courage and such insight. I am just amazed at them, utterly amazed. I’ve met some beautiful people.

The ones that are very elderly and can’t sing, or can’t chat or visit, I sing some old songs. They remember all the words and it’s sweet. It’s really nice.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
I’ve had so many wonderful patients…and they all have stories. The patient I have right now is a double amputee and she is a delightful little lady. She was a career girl all her life and she’s so cheerful and so up. The one thing that was very important to her was that she had a Cadillac. She was single, never married and she always had a Cadillac. She loves a good story. She has lots of friends that come and visit, and I’ve just enjoyed it so much. It’s been my privilege and my pleasure to talk to her.

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