November 5, 2015

A Resume isn’t Required to Help—Lessons from Volunteering with the Terminally Ill.

sick dying

My profession for the past seven years has been in the healing arts.

I have been fortunate enough to have a successful career in massage therapy. I worked at some of the most prestigious spas in Hollywood and was booked solid with clients. I lived by the beach with an ocean view, spent evenings watching sunsets and weekends with friends.

Still though, something was missing in my life. Something greater than money and materialistic things. Passion was missing. I enjoyed my life but there wasn’t anything that made my heart spark with passion.

I started questioning my purpose in life, wondering if this was really all my life was meant to be.

I decided to start volunteering my massage therapy services to cancer and hospice patients. I saw patients weekly in hospitals, convalescent homes or at their homes. My mission when I began doing this was to bring the TLC, relaxation and what some consider a luxury to those unable to leave the places they are in. I assumed my sessions with my patients would be similar to the ones with my clients. Play some relaxing music, infuse some aromatherapy, tell them to just relax and provide a relaxing, healing massage for them.

Boy was I wrong.

I was walking into the most fragile time of someone’s life. The most uncertain time.

I was greeting eyes that were just tired. Tired of the medical procedures, tired of being in the same room for months, tired of being hooked up to a machine, tired of daily medications, tired of seeing nurses and doctors in and out of their rooms throughout the day with updates about their health turning for the worse.

I was walking in as a stranger, not because it was my job, but because I wanted to provide something for them that asked nothing from them in return. I didn’t have to be there, I wasn’t clocking in. I wasn’t a loved one making my daily visitation rounds.

I was just “someone.”

I realized “someone” was exactly what they needed. They simply needed someone to be with them. Someone who didn’t mind the venting and the crying. Someone who allowed them to be completely vulnerable without judgment. Most of my patients were having breakdowns with me because they felt they needed to be strong in front of loved ones. They didn’t want others worrying or stressing about them.

Here I was though, someone who gave them something so simple and beautiful—whatever they needed at that time. If they needed an ear to listen, they had it, if they needed a hand to hold while crying, they had it, if they needed me to just sit in silence and listen, it was there. Sometimes, they actually needed a massage, however I can only recall a handful of times I ever just gave someone a massage.

It doesn’t matter how many patients I have sat with, laughed with or cried with. It doesn’t matter how many patients felt cared for and loved from my presence of just being with them. It doesn’t matter, because regardless if I comforted one person or a hundred different people, everyone deserves to be nurtured, cared for and loved.

This is something to remember for anyone who thinks they don’t have what it takes to be a ray of light in someone’s life. If you think you need a resume with previous experience or qualifications to simply help, you don’t.

Think of one person in your life that said or did something for you that either changed your life or helped you during a time of need. You may very well be that one person someone needs.

If someone told me ahead of time that out of 100 people I would meet, I would actually only change just one person’s life, I would still choose to help all 100 of them because I know every single person’s life matters. One life is just as important as a million lives.

Volunteering with terminally ill patients taught me many things—I could write an entire book.

One of the most important things it has taught me is that being of service to others means letting go of your ego in order to truly be selfless. I rarely knew anything personal about my patients; these were all people from different walks of life with different belief systems and backgrounds. However, I did get to know personal things about some of them from our conversations.

Would you be able to put your ego aside to help someone else?

If you pull up to an accident to help a wounded person, are you going to question if they paid their taxes, who they voted for or what church they go to before you decide to call 911? I mention these examples because there is a 100 percent chance that if you choose to genuinely help others, you will help people who are different from you. If you only want to help people like you, then you should only ever help yourself.

Some of my patients had likes, views and opinions that I didn’t necessarily embrace, however that never stopped me from being with them, for them. I could have visited a law abiding citizen followed by a criminal. I could have comforted a saint followed by a sinner.

It never mattered to me “who” I was helping. I just knew I wanted to help.



Relephant Read:

A Letter to the Dying.


Author: Marisa Eve Abraham

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Alyssa L. Miller/Flickr


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Marisa Eve Abraham