After a career spent avoiding wrong connections, retired lineman Jack Hennessy learned about the power of the right touch at Hospice of the Chesapeake as a hospice volunteer.
“I wanted to do something meaningful in retirement,” Hennessy said. “There is nothing more rewarding than volunteering.”
Since his 2019 start, he has helped dozens of people and their families. “My job is to make the final journey for everyone as easy as I can,” he said.
With the volunteer team, he learned to support people with dementia, provide Compassionate Touch therapy, and serve as a vigil volunteer during a patient’s last days and hours. That training and perspective made him the perfect vigil volunteer to match with Millie*, a 97-year-old resident at a senior care facility.
“When I met Millie the first time, she was lively,” he said. Far from weak and unresponsive, Millie was cheerful and eager to talk. He returned the next day, and the day after that. “I offered to perform Compassionate Touch, massaging her hands and fingers with lotion.” Studies prove the value of touch to ease discomfort and reduce anxiety.
“She wouldn’t let me go, holding on as much as she could,” he said. “I held her arm, she held mine.”
Jack visited for weeks. Like old friends, they talked and laughed.
Perhaps, you might say, they were smitten with each other. Certainly, Millie was. Staff remarked how his visits energized Millie.
Perhaps, you might say, they were smitten with each other. Certainly, Millie was. Staff remarked how his visits energized Millie. One day, a nurse brought Millie a colorful quilt crafted by volunteers for patients. “Millie told the nurse her ‘boyfriend’ gave her the blanket,” Hennessy said. “That boyfriend was me.”
Sadly, COVID-19 caught up with Hennessy in December. He could not visit. While he recuperated, Millie’s condition worsened. One night, she passed away, holding the quilt at her side. “I didn’t see Millie at the end,” he said, with a pause. “I’ll never forget the connection we shared and what it meant to both of us.”
It seems he, too, was equally smitten.
*Patient’s name changed