Over the years, she and her husband, John, began volunteering in patient care as well. They visit patients and families in their homes and at local nursing homes, offering companionship and respite, as well as music therapy. John plays piano and guitar, and Jo sings old hymns.
More recently, Jo says she was called to become an 11th Hour volunteer, sitting with patients who are actively dying.
“I just knew I had to do it,” she says. “It is such a holy, trustful time to be with these families. There’s no fanfare, and hardly any words are spoken. It’s just your presence that can make a difference.”
Making special moments happen
For several months, Jo has been visiting with hospice patient John Eveland and his wife, Dinah. She comes in on Sundays to sit with John, play online games with him and give Dinah a break, allowing her to attend church. “That raises her spirits,” Jo says of Dinah. “She always comes back in the door a little bit lighter.”
John Eveland (pictured right) loves to fish, so the Emarys arranged a short fishing trip at a neighbor’s stocked pond complete with a picnic lunch. Without the Emarys’ generosity, John Eveland might not have gotten the chance to fish again.
Dinah says John was very proud that he was the only one to catch a fish that day, and he really treasured the whole experience. “He was exhausted when we got home, but he talked about it for weeks afterwards.”
Just being with Jo is a blessing to John, his wife adds. “He loves to get her laughing. That’s really uplifting for him. It gets his mind off of his problems.”
The impact of a volunteer
Jo believes volunteers have a lot to offer hospice and palliative care patients. “The patients have needs and wants for their beloved activities, to do them again before their time comes. It really helps to have volunteers that can help families facilitate those experiences,” she says.
Patients might not want to burden their families, so “that’s what volunteers are there for,” she adds. “I am so glad to be able to ease some of the burden, and I wish I could ease more.”
Thanks to Jo and John Emary for being there for so many of our patients and families over the years!