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Listening with your heart

“Daddy, Miss Cynthia says that a person’s hearing is the last to go?” my 9-year old son Anthony asked me after over 40 volunteers, including many of his Schererville Shock baseball teammates and their families, voluntarily sang Christmas carols last week at the William J. Riley Memorial Residence.

After confirming our Hospice of the Calumet Area Volunteer Coordinator Cynthia Camp’s implication, Anthony’s surprising, yet infectious smile radiated my soul as he reminded me that “our voices may be the last songs they heard on their way to heaven.”

My job as marketing director here at HCA has been one continual blessing after another. Not only do I feel inspired every single day by our brilliant staff and volunteers’ cherishing life philosophy and commitment to serving, but my children’s understanding of my job as well.

Now that the holidays have come and gone, I have been able to reflect upon the magic that filled this season. It wasn’t the presents under the tree, but the hand holding, tears, laughter and music that permeated the hearts of my family and friends. It was the moments of togetherness and peace.

For the past three years, my family has been caroling at Riley and have made it part of our annual tradition. But this year was different. Perhaps it was the group of volunteers and staff that joined us, perhaps it was the patients or the melodic Doo-Wop masterminds — The Spaniels Forever — that accompanied us novices and transformed our sound to the likes of a philharmonic choir.

The wonderment began the Sunday after Thanksgiving when my three year-old Monica pranced through our Riley Residence joining eighth graders from St. Thomas More and students and alumni from Purdue University Northwest (who have been decorating yearly for over 20 years). The eighth grade volunteers and their parents had taken her under their wings and made her feel part of the group as she zipped in and out of suites quietly and respectfully, decorating all eight patient suites.

The holiday season didn’t only affect my family, but many of my co-workers as well. One of our newest members of our staff, RN Kristine Espitia, sat with me sharing how appreciative she is to have such an inspiring job.

"Serving patients and their families is so sacred to me,” Espitia said. “It's an honor for me to usher them into the glorious life that awaits them. This job has wonderful purpose and I am so glad that I have the opportunity to share it with my loved ones.” Espitia was also part of our caroling team and convinced her 5-year-old son Charles and 9-year-old son Anthony to join in on the fun.

“My little Charles made a connection with one of our patients and reached out for her hand," Espitia said. “It was so moving and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful organization that really has a spiritual and emotional impact on people every day."

Family relationships are so very significant and dynamic, and in this day and age where humanity is needed, I am so grateful to be part of a team that values the power of honor and dignity of others’ lives.

Damian Rico is the director of community relations & marketing director for Hospice of the Calumet Area. Rico is a former award-winning journalist/photojournalist/videographer for The Times. He enjoys engaging inspirational people and sharing their stories. His favorite role is the one in which he is referred to as “Daddy.” The opinions are the writer's.

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