Cecilia Mescall said she sometimes gets asked why she volunteers in places where people face potentially life-limiting conditions.
Her response: “Because there might be something I can say to somebody that might give them hope.”
Mescall is a volunteer with Hospice and Palliative Care of the Piedmont’s Hospice House, who visits with patients and families and brings along her therapy dog, Cotton. Mescall also volunteers on her own at Hospice and Palliative Care of the Piedmont’s Greenwood Hospice Store.
Recently, Mescall and Cotton visited with a patient at Hospice House and noticed a photograph in the patient’s room.
“It was was a picture of the patient on a McCormick-Deering Farmall tractor,” Mescall said. “I had seen in the toy department of the Hospice Store a die-cast replica of that exact tractor...I told the family we had it at the store and I wanted to get it for them. At first, I thought it was sold and I was kind of crushed, but it had just gotten moved and then, we found it.”
Mescall said it was ironic that the toy tractor was the exact model in the patient’s photo.
“I was super happy this worked out,” Mescall said. “The family told me the man had his tractor for years. The patient’s family also absolutely loved Cotton. Families connect with the dog and it gives them an alternative to the situations they are facing...It was definitely a God moment with that family.”
The Hospice House patient was Ray Kidd of Greenwood. His daughter, Sandy Gosnell, said it was indeed “a God moment.”
“My dad, a few years back, restored a Farmall tractor that his daddy, my granddaddy, bought when my dad was 13 years old,” Gosnell said. “The hospice volunteer with the dog told us about the toy tractor and a few days later she brought it to us and it was exactly like my dad’s tractor, which we still have. It was very emotional. My uncle, Ronnie Kidd, my dad’s only sibling, has the toy tractor now.”
Mescall’s yellow Labrador retriever is a certified therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International. The dog has been certified for nearly two years.
“Patients in the Hospice House don’t have their pets with them,” Mescall said. “It’s extra special when you can connect with dog lovers through a therapy dog.”
Mescall, 58, of Greenwood, is a breast cancer survivor, with a work background in information technology. She has lost friends and loved ones to different types of cancers, some who have been patients in HospiceCare’s Hospice House in Greenwood, and others who have utilized in home hospice services through other organizations.
She is also part of a cancer support group through Self Regional’s Cancer Center and she and Cotton volunteer at the Cancer Center, too, visiting with patients receiving cancer treatments.
“Hospice is not like a hospital and the volunteers are incredible,” Mescall said, noting she decided to volunteer at Hospice House after three people very close to her died from terminal illnesses and she was with some of them in their final moments.
“I figured if I could be there with people I absolutely know and love, I should be able to be there for strangers,” Mescall said. “Those three experiences — one with a buddy from chemo and ones with my sister and niece — definitely led me down this path to volunteer with hospice. Death is just part of life. It’s a very sacred part. If you are invited into that period of time in somebody’s life, it’s quite the blessing.”
It can be heart-wrenching, Mescall said. But, there is also joy in knowing final moments are not spent alone.
Every year, nearly 1.4 million people living with life-limiting illnesses receive care from hospices in the United States. November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.
All who have lost loved ones are invited to the Hospice and Palliative Care of the Piedmont’s 2019 Annual Memorial Service at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at First Baptist Church of Greenwood. It’s an evening of music, candle-lighting and shared personal reflections.
Also supporting Hospice and Palliative Care of the Piedmont’s mission is the annual Festival of Trees fundraiser at First Baptist Church of Greenwood Dec. 7 and 8.