During the darkest time of their lives, Hospice workers came to the aid of Bob and Maureen Tull.
Now, they are both Hospice volunteers themselves and have recently been awarded with the prestigious Judith Lund Person Hospice Volunteer Award.
â€œHere we are two people who dealt with grief, and we felt like we were lucky to give back,â€ Maureen said.
Both Maureen and Bob lost their spouses to cancer.
Maureenâ€™s husband died suddenly in 1994 from lung cancer. He was under Hospice care for one week. It was the first time Maureen had ever heard of the organization.
â€œI thought to myself â€˜Is that a pill? What is it?â€™â€ she said.
She soon found out and was amazed at the care she and her husband received.
â€œWhen the team comes in, it takes all the stress off you,â€ she said. â€œIt was just such a relief to know I could call them if I needed them.â€
Bob and his wife went through a longer battle.
â€œMy first wife developed leukemia the first weekend we moved here officially,â€ he said. â€œShe gradually went downhill over four years.â€
He was grateful for the help of a Hospice nurse near the end of his wifeâ€™s life.
At the time, volunteering for the organization didnâ€™t even cross his mind.
â€œI had to just survive,â€ he said. â€œGetting through the grief, I didnâ€™t think of those things.â€
After his wifeâ€™s death in 1995, Bob joined church grief support groups. There, he met Maureen and many others. The groups provided much-needed socialization.
â€œSo many people get withdrawn. They stay in the house,â€ Maureen said. â€œAll your friends disappear because they donâ€™t know how to deal with it.â€
Neither Maureen or Bob had romance on their minds.
â€œWe both made statements we would never get married again,â€ Maureen said.
Instead, Maureen was heavily involved in Hospice. As her relationship with Bob grew, he became interested in the organization as well.
After marrying in 1997, the couple started volunteering together at Palliative Care Center and Hospice of Catawba Valley.
â€œTheyâ€™ve just been absolute resources for us,â€ said Lea Hepler, community development coordinator for the organization, who nominated them for the Judith Lund Person Hospice Volunteer Award.
Over the years, the couple has helped families get food stamps, planned a wheel-chair-bound patients beach trip and helped find the funds to pay for it, spoken on behalf of Hospice to area groups and given time to childrenâ€™s grief camps.
The Tulls are known to go above and beyond the call of duty.
â€œI feel my job description is â€˜Whatever it takes,â€™â€ Maureen said.
During a trip to Hawaii, they sent e-mails and postcards to their patient. They have reunited a mother and her estranged son and listened to people during the hardest time in their life.
â€œSome of them will tell you things they donâ€™t want to bother their children with,â€ Maureen said. â€œThey want to know their lives are of value.â€
They also give their time to the patientâ€™s family members.
â€œI sat with a granddaughter one time and told her a little bit about whatâ€™s happening,â€ Bob said.
Both have developed friendships with patients. Bob has recently taken a break from volunteering following the death of a man with whom he was especially close.
â€œ(Volunteering for Hospice is) not something that went on hold because he left the patientâ€™s house, or he left the facility,â€ Hepler said. â€œItâ€™s something he thinks of all the time.â€
And while itâ€™s hard to lose a patient, itâ€™s wonderful to see them get better. The couple also finds joy in spending time with people who need them.
â€œI donâ€™t look at it as a job. I look at it as something Iâ€™m blessed to do,â€ Maureen said. â€œYou want to give dignity and comfort care to people at their most stressful times.â€
This devotion is what earned the Tulls the volunteer award.
â€œThey approach every patient as if they were their own family, and they reach out to people in this hour of direst need with love and compassion, and they do that with every single person they work with,â€ Hepler said.
For more information on Palliative Care Center and Hospice of Catawba Valley call (828) 466-0466. For more information on Hospice of Lincoln County call (704) 602-0906.
by Sarah Grano