Prince Rupert and District Hospice Society (PRDHS) is saying farewell to its long term volunteer coordinator, Connie Munson.
Having spent the past 10 years working with the Prince Rupert hospice, supporting individuals and families during the end-of-life transition, Munson is retiring from the full-time role on Aug. 10.
Munson has been the driving force behind hospice success in supporting families and individuals through some of their darkest days, Judy Riddell, president of PRDHS said.
During her time as volunteer coordinator, Munson has overseen the recruitment, training and retention of hospice volunteers, supporting and assisting persons going through their last days in palliative care in the hospital or at home, and running numerous grief support groups.
The mission of hospice is to provide volunteers who offer a program of compassionate care and support for those experiencing a life-limiting illness, death, loss and grief in the local community.
Munson became involved in hospice more than 30 years ago and has worked with various hospice organizations around the province. Her family being more than 4000 miles away, in New Brunswick, influenced her dedication to become involved in hospice, she said.
“Many times I couldn’t be there at the end of life with my family and basically I’m paying it forward, like to be able to be a support to someone that’s a stranger, but not a stranger for long. It is very rewarding.”
“I’m a nurse, and as a nurse, I always wanted that extra time to be at the bedside, not to rush for doing, but just for being. That’s what hospice gave me,” Munson said.
Taking over the role is Joanne Ritchie, who has been a volunteer with PRDHS for the past three years. She has assisted in a myriad of positions under Munson’s leadership such as companion visits to patients in Acropolis Manor, palliative care visits, home visits and fundraising.
Ritchie said she is looking forward to the rewarding responsibilities the new position will bring.
“The reward is that privilege of being there, as part of that family. In some instances there is no family, so it is a responsibility to be there as the loved one for someone in the very last chapter of their life,” Ritchie said.
“The most challenging thing is that you meet the most wonderful, incredible people at the end of their life. It’s such a privilege to be allowed into such a emotional time. Because of this time you get closely bonded to great people and you feel a protectiveness to them … that is the role of hospice, to be there in those hours to help them and (make them) feel loved.”
Ritchie said, as she steps into the role, there are some big shoes to fill.
“I hope to be able to maintain the presence that Connie has brought to the role.”
“Tears spring to my eyes when I think of her (Munson). She is so warm and comforting. It feels like you are visiting a family member when you are with her,” Ritchie said. “She has such an aura of comfort that puts you at ease. She has been such a wonderful mentor in this role.”
Munson said she knows the difficulties firsthand of the isolation and loneliness weeks in hospital can create for families and patients from her own personal experiences. She is looking forward to a new chapter in her life where she can devote more energy to her family.
“I will continue on with hospice in a part-time volunteer role running the grief support groups, and also some contract training for new volunteers. I want to keep the connection and relationships with people.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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