Sponsored by: Tidelands Hospice
By: Jennifer Bell, Tidelands Community Hospice Foundation Director
Hospice volunteers provide companionship to people living with a serious illness and help their family caregivers in a variety of ways. Hospices also rely on volunteers to help with office work, fund raising, community outreach and other operational areas, but simply being there for someone is the greatest gift of all. At Tidelands Community Hospice, for over 30 years our volunteers have been helping people LIVE. The end of life is another phase of life that should be lived to fullest. Most people say, “I could never do that” when referring to hospice volunteering. Anyone, at any age, can do this and should. It is an amazing privilege.
Here is one of many stories about a patient and volunteer and the unique relationship that was formed. Please call Annie at 843-546-3410, if you are interested in touching a life by becoming a Hospice Volunteer.
Ray Catoe always dreamed of revisiting the place that made a man out of the young farm boy he was when he joined the Marine Corps in 1953. Years of building houses and keeping up with the day to day demands of life kept him from making the drive to Parris Island where Catoe completed his basic training. At 66, Catoe’s idea of going back seemed to drift farther and farther away into the realm of dreams. He was diagnosed that year with an inoperable brain tumor that made living the biggest dream of all. The Parris Island trip seemed out of the question.
Enter Tidelands Hospice and their volunteer Jack Benfield, a resident of Pawleys Island, who had been placed with Ray for about a month or so at the time. While breaking the ice, the two men discovered that, though they never knew each other before then, both had fought on the front lines in Korea at the same time. Ray was in the 1st Marine Division and Jack served in the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division.
“Ray said he’d like to go back to Parris Island, but he’d never gotten the chance to,” Benfield said. “I asked him if he could still get there, would he want to go and he said that would be great.” That is when Jack and Tidelands Hospice got the ball rolling.
Benfield searched around to find a local ambulance company to help transport Catoe comfortably and safely. Because Catoe was bedridden and required oxygen, Benfield knew the trip would not be possible without the ambulance ride. The Pawleys Island-Litchfield Rescue squad stepped up and offered an ambulance with a driver and EMT for the trip.
After coordinating with Parris Island, Mr. Catoe, his wife, a family friend, and Jack Benfield made the seven hour round trip to watch a graduation ceremony of a basic training class at Parris Island.
Upon their arrival, they were assigned a captain, to make sure he had everything he needed. At one point, Ray asked the captain for one of the camouflage Marine caps that were being worn. “Five minutes later, he had his own hat,” his wife said “and he wore it proudly. They treated him like a King there. They take care of their own.”
The day was a dream come true for Ray and his wife.
“There are still angels around in the world, huh, baby?” his wife said.
“There sure are,” Ray answered.
Jack Benfield, Ray's Tidelands Community Hospice volunteer that set the trip up for him, served as a pallbearer at Ray’s funeral. It is still an unbelievable coincidence that these two men were stationed in Kum-Wa valley in the Korean War at the same time, only to meet 60 years later under Hospice circumstances. Jack is still a faithful and gracious volunteer at Tidelands Community Hospice.