- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) - In the quiet of a softly lit nursing home room, Margie Krause sang Christmas songs from her church hymnal and prayed at the bedside of a female patient.

It was late in the evening.

The curtains were pulled.

The woman was in her last hours of life and wasn’t coherent, but her movements seemed to indicate she knew Krause was nearby.

Krause’s soft voice lulled the elderly woman into her final days.

The patient’s son accompanied Krause on his guitar.

“It’s such a good feeling to bring joy to other people’s lives,” Krause told The Janesville Gazette (https://bit.ly/1EmRbGg). Krause, 57, Milton, has sat vigil with a couple dozen Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care patients as they were dying. She volunteers for four-hour shifts, usually between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

She’s been an Agrace volunteer since 1993 and a vigil volunteer for in-home and in-facility dying patients for six years.

She said it’s her way of paying God back for letting her live after a 1991 car crash left her in a coma.

The experience was life-changing for Krause, who is strong in her Catholic faith.

She has no fear of dying, she said.

“I was comfortable enough to know the vigil volunteer program would be something that would provide me another chance to experience what a blessing it is to be in someone else’s life at that point and to help them through their end-of-life journey,” she said.

Krause is among 85 trained Agrace vigil volunteers. Ten of them serve Rock County patients, said Andy Boryczka, manager of volunteer services for Agrace.

“I’d love to double that number to provide the care and support our patients and families in Rock County deserve,” he said.

The vigil volunteer program is one of Agrace’s most widely used services, Boryczka said.

“There’s a huge, huge need. We get requests several times a week throughout the (Rock County) service area; sometimes multiple times on a given night. On a recent Friday, three different patients requested that same service,” he said.

The vigil volunteers provide comfort and reassurance for patients and their loved ones, Boryczka said.

“Time and time again, we hear from the family what a great gift it was to them,” he said.

Scott Geister-Jones, Stoughton, agreed.

When his father, 92, was dying, the vigil volunteer gave him the opportunity to take a break, go home and rest.

“My mom has passed, I have no cousins, and my sister lives in Europe. So for me, it was comforting to be able to go home and get a little rest knowing Pop wasn’t alone. It was sweet and an act of love. I appreciated it very much,” he said.

Vigil volunteers are required to provide a minimum of 50 hours of service with patients, complete a special application and attend training, Boryczka said. A vigil volunteer has to be peaceful, calm and quiet and comfortable holding someone’s hand for hours without any return interaction, he said.

Krause said vigil volunteers are caring and compassionate, and their goal is to make the journey of the dying less lonely.

“I wouldn’t want to be alone nor would I want my family to be alone,” she said. “If I can make anyone less lonely, then I feel like I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.”

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Information from: The Janesville Gazette, https://www.gazetteextra.com


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