CADILLAC — Marshall Smith is 18 and will graduate with the Cadillac High School class of 2019.
One of highlights of his senior year was playing Lumiere in the school’s recent production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
“That was exciting,‘ he said. “It was my first experience singing and dancing and doing everything in a French accent.‘
But in addition to his many school activities, Marshall and his 15-year old brother Gavin serve as companions to those facing their final days of life.
“Doing this helps you cope with death,‘ Marshall said. “Instead of avoiding it, I’m facing it. Ever since the death of my Grandpa Smith it hit home ... I think he’d like that I’m helping out other people.‘
The Smith brothers followed the example of their mom, Brook Pollington-Smith, who encouraged them to join in the volunteer work that inspires her.
“Last year I read about hospice patients who would sometimes go a couple of days without seeing anyone, and how Hospice of Michigan needed people to fill those spaces,‘ said Smith. “That pulled at my heart strings ... they are dying and they need other people.‘
Smith called to volunteer that very day and since then, she provides companionship, bedside vigils and caregiver relief to those facing their last days.
“This experience is priceless,‘ she said. “It has helped me understand my place in society in this crazy world. This gives purpose to my life.‘
“When mom brought it up I didn’t know what hospice was,‘ Marshall said. “But I was intrigued. It sucks that patients are dying and there (are times) when no one is with them. I decided to try it out.‘
Gavin agreed as well “to test the waters.‘
The brothers then received training and had supervision on their first visits.
“Kathy Sandage gave us some tips,‘ Marshall said. “Because my brother and I are young, we talk about school. They love that. She told us to just be ourselves.‘
“You see them as an equal person and talk to them like to a friend,‘ Gavin said. “This helps you cope with death. Everybody sees it as bad ... but when you do this, you see that it’s normal. It happens everywhere around you. People are in pain and they die and go somewhere better.‘
“I am so proud of these young men,‘ said Kathy Lietaert of Hospice of Michigan. “Dying is a part of life. They are so wise because the rest of society doesn’t even face death that way. It’s great they spend time with the gift of their youth and the gift of what they have learned. It’s very inspiring to the team and to the patients and the families.‘
If you would like to volunteer in the Northern Michigan area with Hospice of Michigan, please contact Kathy Lietaert at (231) 779-5409 or write email@example.com for more information.