To Joyce, life is a journey - one that should be shared with others. She particularly feels privileged to spend time with those who are nearing the end of their journey.
Joyce is a direct-patient volunteer with Allina Health Hospice, working with patients and their families. Her roles include providing haircuts for those on hospice who cannot get to a salon or barber, to providing respite and assistance to caregivers, to helping with little things that would make life less stressful. Her biggest role may be to listen and to simply be present.
"I am passionate about hospice," says Joyce. "Hospice is about living. It is about sharing life, which is a rich and treasured gift. When we are open to sharing life, our stories, all who share are strengthened and transformed. I am humbled when a family opens their door and welcomes me in. It is a privilege, an honor to walk life's journey with them."
Volunteering isn't a new experience for Joyce. As a teenager, she volunteered as a candy striper at a nursing home. Her inspiration and mentor is her father, who regularly stops by nursing homes to visit. "Even though he doesn't know anyone there," she said, "he thought it was important because elderly people needed visitors, too."
Joyce became involved in the hospice volunteer program indirectly through her mother. Twenty-three years ago, Joyce's mother moved in with Joyce and her family during her final two months of life. Although saddened by her mother's passing, Joyce felt blessed to have that time with her mother.
"My mom's death at 56 certainly had a profound impact. After that, I knew in my heart that I wanted to give back to hospice."
She began by training and working as a "BeFriender," a listening ministry that helped provide her with life skills essential in hospice work. A few years later, her priest, Father Jim Cassidy of St. Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis, asked for volunteers to help with the Allina Health Hospice program, and Joyce signed on.
Recently, she underwent training to become an 11th Hour volunteer. These are people especially trained to be with someone whose death is imminent. Their motto is that "no one should die alone." She may provide support for the patient or for the family and friends.
"Through hospice I have learned that life is not only about giving, it is also about gracious receiving; perhaps the most important gift of all," said Starks. "I know how difficult it is to open the door and ask for help; I've been there. Opening the door allows the miracles in. Little do these wonderful people know, that it is I who receive; I who am strengthened; I who am better for having shared life with them."
More hospice care stories
Allina Health Hospice Foundation Newsletter, Shared Journey newsletter