Andrea Martin knows the ‘pain’ of losing people.
It’s what got her involved in founding the 100 Mile chapter of Compassionate Friends – an international support group for bereaved parents – 25 years ago. She was also a volunteer for 30 years with the 100 Mile District Hospice Palliative Care Society.
“It was a time of passion for me to be a hospice volunteer and work with people who were losing loved ones and for those people who were at their end-of-life journey,” Martin said.
December and around Christmas are really difficult, she said. It’s when people really notice that big gap in a family. It helps to be able to share both the sorrow and the joy with others who understand what they are feeling.
She said it’s unfortunate that they have been unable to hold the candle-lighting service during the past few years. This was a time for bereaved parents to come together in a place that is safe and meaningful to remember their children and honour their names.
As a volunteer, she never tells people she knows their pain.
After all, no one’s pain is the same.
Instead, she said she knows ‘the pain’. The pain of losing a husband, the pain of losing a child.
She said she is also lucky to have many wonderful memories of her mother, her husband and her two children.
Although there were moments when she went home with a heavy feeling, Martin said the knowledge that she has done the best she can for someone is also very rewarding.
“I just knew that is what I was meant to be.”
Martin said she has always been a volunteer. Her parents were both caring people, she said, and she learned by watching them how important it was to give back.
“It was just something that was always a part of my life. It is what I saw, it is what I knew was the right thing to do,” she said.
After getting married, she and her late husband started out as foster parents.
When they started their own family, Martin got involved with the Girl Guides, adding it is quite difficult to get people to make a commitment to the organization. Sister guiders were a wonderful group of people, she said, as were the hospice volunteers and the people giving many hours in Compassionate Friends. The people she has worked with are amazing and encouraging.
“Everybody works and these things take a certain amount of time and dedication and commitment. I always had that being a stay-at-home mom.”
One thing that makes her sad is hearing how hard it is to find volunteers these days. After 30 years of giving, she is retiring but hopes someone else will pick up the torch.
She believes that the experiences people have when they volunteer are very rewarding. Being a volunteer does not make you feel like you are better than others said Martin, but instead, “they make you feel like you have a part of and hopefully made a difference in somebody’s life.”
Being a volunteer in her chosen areas has been very fulfilling, she added.
“Just in knowing what I was doing was right, it enriched my life beyond description,” she said. “It has been lots of fun.”