Monday, December 28, 2015

A Volunteer's 2015: The Roller Coaster

Written by: Brigitte Yuille, volunteer

You never know how your year will begin or how it will end.

In 2015, my year began in Florida and ended up in Maryland. The month of January was tumultuous. I was completing my MBA program when I learned about the death of a dear friend, Carolyn Jacobi. Carolyn advocated for the rights of the dead by lobbying for the passage of bills that updated and maintained standards for cemeteries and funeral homes. She also coordinated funeral’s, such as my mother’s funeral. Most of her work was done from the goodness of her heart. She was a volunteer.

A few weeks later on a Friday morning, I called my grandmother’s Washington D.C. home. No reply. I called two more times, and finally reached out to her landlord to check on her. I received a phone call learning that my 82-year-old grandmother had fallen and couldn’t move. Later that evening, my brother and sister-in-law urged her to go to the hospital. Once she arrived, my family learned she had to undergo major surgery. Her percentage for survival was low. I frantically tried to get on the next plane out of Florida to D.C. To the doctor’s surprise, she made it out of surgery, but she had a long struggle ahead. So, I spoke with my boyfriend and we made the decision to move to D.C.

Brigitte Yuille and her grandmother Annie Foster

The first six months involved us taking care of my grandmother’s affairs, as well as her spirit. The next six months was about rebuilding. Rebuilding for my grandmother was the recognition of how her life had changed and how she needed to allow her body time to heal. Rebuilding for my boyfriend and I meant adapting to a new place. Rebuilding for me was coming back to Maryland, a place where I grew up. When I first arrived, the way the sun rose and set jolted memories from my childhood.  I visited my old neighborhood and yearned for the peace of an innocent childhood, but by the second half of the year, I let that all go. I realized those years were gone. I had to build a new life in Maryland and create new memories. However, I adopted an activity my mother once so proudly had done: volunteering, specifically for the American Red Cross.

Volunteering is healing to me, and having the ability to aid an organization dedicated to helping many different people from veterans to the homeless means I can touch so many more lives. Anytime I can give my time to make someone else’s life better fills me up with joy. 

My cousin, Chinetta, had been fighting cancer for four years. Over the past year, we would talk on a spiritual level about God and the lessons life has to offer. Chinetta was a Reverend and had a regular office job, but she spent most of her time with her family volunteering in the church. She lost her fight to cancer in October at the age of 47, but she did it in her own way. She lay on my Aunt and Uncle’s couch in the home where she grew up after learning the doctor’s could do nothing else to stop the progression of her disease. She waited until her son came home, let her know how much she loved him, and she took her last breath. Her sister, my other cousin, told me how she was fascinated by the turnout at the funeral. So many people attended, like the people from the local store and several of her coworkers. She was a light within her community. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her. She lived her life dedicated to service.

I call 2015: The Roller Coaster. It has definitely taken me for a ride, but I am grateful for all of the valuable lessons I have learned. The advantage to all of the ups and downs is that I can apply the lessons learned to my volunteer activities. I can understand and see people better, which enable me to help them even more.

Getting involved in the community is easy. Learn more about the important roles volunteers play in the fulfillment of the Red Cross mission-

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