“I knew I wanted to become one of those angels...”
Profile by Virginia Wright-Peterson
Photo by Vicki De Boer
Becoming a volunteer at Seasons Hospice is the last earthly gift Jeff gave his mother. “After watching the team of angels from Seasons at my son’s bed while he was dying of gastric cancer, I knew I wanted to become one of those angels.” Now Charyl is part of a three person tag-team that provides receptionist support at the office on Mondays.
“I treat the office like my home. If I see something that needs to be done, I dive in.” Once that meant giving the kitchen floor a good scrubbing on her hands and knees. The people at the office have become like family to Charyl over the last three years, “comfortable like a favorite pair of slippers.”
As a jack-of-all-trades, she doesn’t limit herself to the office, however. Charyl has provided direct care to eight patients during her tenure as a volunteer. Once she helped a woman weakened by cancer fulfill a wish to bake brownies for her son one last time. The woman died four days later, and Charyl is thankful she was there to help. Volunteering feeds her soul “like nothing else.” “Nothing else comes close,” she says.
From her own journey and volunteer experiences, Charyl has the following advice for families with a dying loved one:
- Be genuine
- Keep an open mind
- Have a generous spirit
- Walk each day gently
Raised on a farm north of Rochester, Charyl started helping people as a child when she began looking out for her twin sister. Although only six minutes older, Charyl felt responsible for her younger, somewhat smaller and more timid sister. Those days were the beginning of a life of caring.
In addition to volunteering for Seasons Hospice, Charyl focuses on her three grandchildren, ages 15, 13, and 6. She and her husband, Ron, enjoy being at all of their soccer, basketball, and football games. She also enjoys gardening, writing, quilting, and cooking, including canning and freezing everything from asparagus in the spring to potatoes in the fall. Rumor has it she has a scrumptious salsa recipe available for the asking.
Charyl’s most recent hobbies are turkey hunting and fishing. When Jeff died, her husband lost his primary hunting partner, but not for long. Charyl stepped in and now shares those vocations with Ron. She has found a way to turn a deeply felt loss into a multitude of blessings. Undoubtedly, her son would be proud of her for that.