This is not the blog post you’d expect.
After arriving at the Pechanga Hotel Resort & Casino, at the end of what seemed to be an endless driving day, I took a shower, and then had the delight to meet with Nancy.
Very few Mark Knopfler fans, if at all, know anything about Nancy. She is a big fan of Mark Knopfler’s music. We met at the Las Vegas concert during the Kill to Get Crimson tour; I can’t recall exactly what started the conversation (I believe it was something about Danny Cummings handing out his drum sticks to her after the show; she then mentioned that she was following my blog), however we stayed in touch ever since, chatting now and then, emailing back and forth.
Nancy’s a sweet lady, living in Jamison, a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. A kidney cancer survivor, Nancy appears to be a very relaxed, cheerful lady.
(You’re probably wondering now what on earth is this the business of yours… be patient, it’s coming)
As soon as the Get Lucky tour was announced, I knew that I will attend it in its entirety. One of those things that you do first, and then think—rather than the other way around. I love to travel, and listening to the best music the world has to offer played live in front of you on a nightly basis—well, could traveling be any better?
Travel North America & Europe? yeah, I have done that already (mostly in North America); and it’s fun. Listen to Mark Knopfler and his band live? yeah, I have done that already too, 38 times (44 times if counting the current tour so far; 125 in total by the end of July; and it’s never enough). How about I do something a little different now?
So I had this idea I was toying around with in my head—pondering not on its merits, but on how I’m going to bring it to life. The passion to actually do something about it built‐up over time, fuelled by certain people (Nancy, and my good friend Joyti Bharaj) and events (Mark Knopfler’s Hurlingham Club charity concert).
However the “last straw”—the event that made me decide “yes, this is worth pursuing”, had nothing to do with Mark Knopfler. It had to do with a musician named Jason Mraz; an avid fan of his, a gorgeous redhead whom I met in high school (see a picture of myself with a sweet girl named Hadar in one of the previous posts); and a brilliantly‐inspiring young man named Jesse Billauer.
Billauer, nowadays 31 years old, has a rather impressive life story. At the age of 17, he broke his neck as a result of a surfing accident, rendering him quadriplegic. That seemed to have very little impact on his motivation, though. He did continue to surf, adjusting his equipment and technique to his physical condition. Later on, he graduated San Diego State University studying communications and became heavily involved in an organization called Life Rolls On (http://www.liferollson.org). Read about it; they’re organizing some amazing events.
A charity concert has been arranged celebrating Billauer’s birthday in late February this year, featuring Jason Mraz as the main act. Hadar asked me to join her, and as it is strictly against my genes to say “no” to redheads, I hopped on a plane and met her in Long Beach, California, for the concert. It was an eye‐opening event.
What I decided to do is simple: depending on the Get Lucky tour’s schedule, and if time permits, I would like to meet with people who are contributing their time, efforts and energy towards worthy causes; chat with them, get a sort of idea about what they’re doing and put it in writing.
Maybe I will learn something.
Nancy is sitting in front of me, at the cafe by the casino at the Pechanga Resort. Jeroen, who has been very supportive of this idea, is with us.
Nancy has been volunteering in many places throughout her adult life. Nowadays, she volunteers at Chandler Hall Hospice in Newtown, PA. Working with terminally‐ill patients, Nancy fulfills whatever tasks she is assigned to.
That wasn’t her original plan, though.
“As a professional massage therapist, I originally thought I would be giving massages to hospice residents”, she’s saying. “But I am doing much more than that now”.
The hospice is a 14‐bed inpatient unit. Terminally‐ill patients go there to get palliative care and emotional support. To be admitted as a patient in a hospice,
- An M.D has to say that the patient’s life expectancy is within the next six months; and
- The patient is no longer receiving any medical treatment for his / her illness.
The hospice asks volunteers for at least two hours of their time each week; Nancy volunteers between six to eight hours weekly. “Although people tend to assume this is a sad place to be, that’s not always the case. Our residents are no longer receiving painful treatments, they often feel much better after being admitted to hospice. Our goal is to make what time they have left as pleasant as possible.”
“So, what is it that you do exactly?”, I ask.
Nancy hesitates, as if she cannot decide where to start. “Whatever they need me to do, really. Patient care; preparing and serving food; holding hands or listening to anyone who needs to talk…”
Working in the hospice sometimes is no picnic by any account. “We have a woman suffering from Dementia,” she continues. “She has been there for quite some time now. Sometimes she gets scared and anxious. She tells me she finds me comforting, so some days I simply sit and hold her hand or tell her stories.”
“People enter hospice at the end of their lives. Some of them have no family, or their family members might be unable to be there as often as they’d like. We fulfill that role as well; nobody should have to die alone”.
Emotions are often involved. “It’s hard because I do occasionally get emotionally attached to patients,” Nancy says. “We know they’re going to die. We never lie to them about why they’re there.”
“What prompted you to take action and volunteer?”, I ask.
“One of the main reasons I joined the hospice was that I feel very fortunate to have survived kidney cancer. Priorities sort‐of change once you go through something like that, and I wanted to do something meaningful”.
She continues: “The work I do at the hospice gives me a feeling of purpose, a sense of being needed.”
“How does it fit with your life?” was my next question.
“I make it a priority,” she responds. “I own my own business, I set the volunteering work as a priority and I schedule my work around that. My family has always been very supportive.”
There are so many people out there putting their time and efforts into worthy causes, often dealing with subjects, conflicts and challenges that the average individual doesn’t really want to have anything to do with. I can’t and won’t preach—as a matter of fact, I will be straightforward and testify about myself that I have a lot to learn in that area; I have no excuses.
If you know of people / organizations that contribute time and efforts towards making this crazy planet a manageable place to live in, drop me a note. Tour’s schedule permitting, I will do my best to bring those stories forward.