Meet Bob Cunningham, a resident of Lion’s Head who recently retired from his work as a business manager at a Toronto law firm, and now lives the good life here on the Bruce Peninsula. With a passion for nature, birding and travel, Bob and his wife Anita have adventured far and wide including trips to Iceland, India, the Galapagos and Ghana.
But for Bob and Anita, living the good life also means contributing to community and continuing to grow and learn. When Anita suggested hospice visiting with Bruce Peninsula Hospice (BPH), Bob was reluctant. He had no medical training, and considers himself a shy individual with minimal capacity for small talk. Bob also had very little experience with death and dying over his life time. The only person close to Bob who died was his grandma. They were close but when she died he was not allowed to attend the funeral. He grew into his thirties having very little experience with loved ones dying. Hospice work was far removed from his comfort zone of the financial, business world. He doubted his ability to contribute in any way to the care of persons living with a life limiting illness and supporting family members through a delicate and emotional time.
Bob stepped into the eight week hospice volunteer training program with plenty of doubts. The training course invited him into discussion with others and it helped him to deal with his own mortality and see death as part of life. He was very impressed with his fellow participants and could see that they too were on this learning curve with him. He recognized that his life experiences could translate into effective, compassionate care. His skills in listening and working with others to overcome personal challenges and his positive personality could serve him well and, indeed, be gifts to his community.
Bob’s extensive work and time on the BPH fundraising initiative Hike for Hospice is an obvious fit, but when he was assigned his first client he was nervous. Bob soon relaxed and enjoyed his time playing cards, sharing stories and, yes, just being quiet together. He soon realized that just being there was a great help and comfort for his client. Bob often walked away with a sense of accomplishment, achieved by offering a simple smile and rewarded with a smile in return. “I think it helps me as much as them. It is profound work and I am learning a lot about myself as well”.
Through Bruce Peninsula Hospice and support of Community Foundation Grey Bruce, Bob joined other volunteers in taking the Indigenous Cultural Safety Training course designed to enhance knowledge, self-awareness, and skills for individuals working directly and indirectly with Indigenous people. This opportunity has been a particular enrichment for Bob as he feels it has helped him to be a better volunteer and, he further advocates, “that we have much to learn from our local First Nations community”.
As a fellow Client Care Volunteer, I enjoyed getting to know Bob a bit better. We concluded our interview time together with this shared thought…our clients teach us time and again, that there is still a great richness in life even after we surrender so much. What a privilege it is to get a glimpse of that richness in the lives of those we serve.
Submitted by Christina Mereu