As I was about to switch off my computer last night, a call came in on my hand phone with the "Beverly Hillbillies" ringtone. (remember Jed & all his friends? ;-))
Just from the ringtone alone, I knew the call came from one of my fellow volunteers. One of a relatively new volunteer (who just got confirmed during our board meeting last month) called to talk about her first ever HIV client.
A few days earlier she called after visiting the client at the hospital in another town. The condition of the client was quite bad and so the volunteer had called to update me about the client, who was in a "semi-coma" condition, so she said.
Last night, the volunteer called again as she had just received news that the client had actually passed on the very same night after the volunteer visited during the day. The volunteer was just informed about it yesterday after the client's funeral.
Last night's call from the volunteer was not just to inform me about her client's death. Frankly I think she needed to talk it out with someone. The call lasted almost half an hour. Apparently she felt sad after her visit at the hospital earlier, looking at the client's poor condition.
She felt she could have done more for the client if only the client was staying in Ipoh, as she could have easily visited the client at home more often. The client was the easily depressed type, keeps things to herself, worries a whole lot about the things happening around her... and the way I see it, she had given up on herself.
The volunteer felt that the client could have lived longer if only there was more encouragement given. She felt the client could have been in a better position if only she was brought to a new environment.
I told the volunteer there are limits as to what we can do as buddies. We can easily say the client or her family members should have done this and that, but we have to remember, many things are easier said and done. And no matter what our religious beliefs are, we all have to accept the fact that the time will come for each of us to leave this world - there are no exceptions to it.
Getting the call from the volunteer reminded me of the time when I had to face the first death amongst my HIV clients. I remember I only had the opportunity to know Rose during the last 2 1/2 months of her life, but during that period I became quite close to Rose... visiting her at home, driving her to the hospital, visiting her kids when she was at the hospital...
When Rose died and I passed the info to my colleagues, the chairperson then was quite concerned as to how I would be taking it. She called to make sure I was okay. Alhamdulillah, I think I took it quite well; and my chairperson then saw it for herself when she went to pay her last respects at Rose's home where I was helping out the family with the funeral arrangements.
Probably I took it better because I have generally learnt to accept death, whether amongst my HIV clients, family, friends or anyone else for that matter.
In addition, for this kind of voluntary work, there is something else we have to keep in mind - don't get yourself too emotionally involved. No doubt we can't help feeling sad or happy for them (whichever the case may be) but getting yourself too deeply involved may result in you yourself needing a buddy! Imagine if I got myself emotionally involved, with the long list of problematic clients that I have, I think I could have gone cuckoo by now...