Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Elisia

Name: Cori Nikole Carr
From: Cleveland, Ohio
Grade: Senior in High school
School: I am a freshmen at Capital University, but graduated from Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School
Votes: 0



11, 2016


story has its turning point or climax. Every story has that moment
where everything that had been built up undergoes a major shift, and
everything the reader thought was going to happen remains just that;
a thought. Life undergoes that same shift, the same alteration in how
one thought something was going to turn out. In fact, that is what
life is: a story in which each individual has their own. The
difference between a story and reality, however, is that life has
many climaxes and an almost overwhelming amount of turning points,
both positive and negative. No matter how many pages are turned, the
ending cannot be foreseen. I am aware that including a story in an
essay is not traditional, but in order to explain my transition from
childhood to adulthood, I feel that telling this story is of utmost
importance as it was one of the most climactic moments in my life.

back on it now, I would have never pictured myself volunteering at
Hospice of the Western Reserve. Of all of the places I’d considered
volunteering, Hospice was the furthest from being a choice. This was
not because I was repulsed by it, but because the thought of
volunteering at such a place frightened me in more ways than
seemingly possible. There was something about being in a building
based upon the inevitability of death that made me shiver, and if
that was the emotion that just thinking about it could conjure out of
me I could only imagine how physically being in the building would
make me feel. That was it. I was not going to volunteer there.
Usually, when I have my mind set on something, there is no changing
it. There was no level of convincing or persuasion that could
possibly get me to change my mind about volunteering at Hospice. On
the contrary, though, that is exactly what happened. I changed my
mind, marking the first climax of my senior year of high school.

first day at Hospice of the Western Reserve began the second week of
my senior year of high school. Needless to say, my nerves were
shooting through the roof and my heart was beating at a nearly
alarming rate. I was displaying the normal signs of nervousness; the
clammy hands and the sweaty forehead. None of the symptoms made the
short walk to Hospice any less uneventful. As I walked up to the
revolving doors of Hospice, I had no idea what to expect and nothing
I imagined in my head seemed to fit quite right. What I imagined,
however, was the complete opposite of what I experienced firsthand.
Immediately, I was greeted by a very pleasant looking, middle-aged
receptionist sitting at a desk in an equally pleasant smelling lobby.
If anything, I was expecting a somber, lamenting, and old woman
paired with an ominously dark setting. I was completely and instantly
taken aback by the happy lady. How could someone, anyone, be so happy
in a place so riddled with pain, sorrow, and death? Her emotions and
the comforting setting made so little sense to me. The woman must
have seen the confusion written all over my face because she smiled a
smile even warmer than the one I’d seen when I walked in, and when
she spoke I’d have sworn I was speaking to an angel. Her voice was
as hospitable and as pleasant as the lobby around her. “Can I help
you with anything?” A question so simple, her wonderful, melodic
voice almost didn’t fit the simplicity of the inquiry’s value. My
confusion heightened. I was drawn to her voice and, out of
politeness and respect, I responded in kind; although I am positive
that my tone of voice could not compete with hers. I told her that I
was supposed to be meeting with the teen volunteer coordinator. She
pointed me in the direction and I offered the most polite thank you
that I could muster. And as I walked away, I, all of a sudden, felt a
little less nervous.

is not to say, at all, that I was not still nervous. As I walked down
the long corridor, my uneasiness began to spike once more. It just
could not be quelled. When I rounded the corner, I was greeted by yet
another friendly face. She was a very tall, very pretty black woman.
She was formal, yet warm and welcoming. I found this fascinating, as
well. The woman introduced herself as Dionne. She would act as my
supervisor during my time volunteering at Hospice. She gave me a tour
and went over the necessary protocol. I remember Miss Dionne
complimenting me on my maturity and she seemed happy to have me
volunteering. She seemed so happy, in fact, that I began to feel
quite excited myself, albeit anxious to see how my time there would
play out.

was I shocked. Although I did not volunteer at Hospice all week, the
time I did spend there was enjoyable. I did everything there was to
be done; arts and crafts, secretarial duties, maintenance work, and
then some. If there was anything that needed done, I was ready and
willing to do so. And if I didn’t know how, I was just as willing
to learn. I also learned a valuable lesson. People often use the
cliché term of not judging a book by its cover. However cliché, the
statement held true for me in the case of Hospice. I had expected
Hospice and its workers to be continuously depressed and unwelcoming.
After all, who could manage to crack so much as a smile in a place
where death was a common as the cold? It was then that I learned what
the true purpose Hospice was. It wasn’t just a place where people
came to die. As morbid as it sounds, that is what I felt was true.
That is not what Hospice is about at all. It is a place where those
whose passing on seems inevitable can be comforted. In fact, patients
are never reminded that they are going to die. I realized that it was
that reason I was so perplexed by the receptionist on my first day. I
should not have been so awestruck at all because she was only being
an adult. She was not happy because she had to be. She was happy
simply because she knew just how Hospice made people who did not work
there feel; sad, anxious, and uncomfortable. She knew that if she was
not happy, Hospice-goers would feel that much worse about coming
there and would be constantly reminded of death. It was this concept
of Hospice that sparked my ability to have an open-mind and,
henceforth, contributed to my transitioning from a child to an adult.

I had come to understand Hospice a bit more, I could not bring myself
to work with the dying patients. Although death was not the first
thing on my mind when I showed up to volunteer, the thought of
meeting a patient who would eventually die scared me. In fact, I am
sure the inevitability of death would scare anyone. I often politely
declined when Dionne would give me a job oriented around patient
interaction. The thought frightened me even more than my volunteering
there had. I knew, however, that eventually I would have to socialize
with a patient as it was a very large part of my job description. So,
one day, I ventured into the art therapy studio. There were a few
patients as well as art therapy technicians sitting around a large
table. I remember seeing a black woman at the table painting a
picture. I remember her specifically, even out of all of the bright
decorative of the art room, because I had an extremely difficult time
distinguishing her from a patient, volunteer, nurse, or a loved one.
Her skin was radiant and she was smiling, looking so unlike a person
in the throes of a sickness that would eventually claim her life. Not
to mention that she looked to be of a considerably young age, barely
in her thirties. After sitting down at the table and introducing
myself, I learned that the woman’s name was Elisia, and that she
was, indeed, a patient at Hospice. I did not ask what illnesses had
brought her to Hospice as I figured it would be rude. I learned that
she often came to art when she needed something to do and that she
rather enjoyed doing so. Elisia was actually very good at art and it
made me happy watching her so jocundly create a new masterpiece. The
time I spent in the art room was not how I expected. Hospice, again,
had taken me by surprise. I’d met my first patient and I enjoyed
her presence so much, I couldn’t wait to see her the next day.

days at Hospice, from then on, consisted of spending time with
Elisia. We often baked gorgeous cupcakes together, watched movies, or
just sat around and talked. She easily became one of my favorite
people and I, just as easily, became hers. We became famous among the
nurses and volunteers for our delicious cupcakes, but even more so
for our increasingly close friendship. At times, I forgot that Elisia
was a patient because she did not look or act sick. She walked around
just like anyone else. In fact, no one would know she was a patient
at all if it were not for the IV she walked around with. Aside from
that, Elisia was as jolly as she could be and I loved spending time
with her.

few months into my senior year and into my volunteering at Hospice, I
noticed a change in Elisia; one that I was not expecting. She was
even happier than she had ever been. I asked her why this was, one
day, over coffee and movie. She told me that she might be leaving
Hospice soon because she was doing way better than the other
patients. I instantly understood her joy. Elisia really was doing
better than the other patients. However, with that being said, she
had seen a lot of the patients in the rooms around her pass away,
some of them being patients she considered her friends. I could only
imagine how that made her feel, so the thought of Elisia getting to
leave was a truly exciting one.

after, I noticed another change in Elisia; this one not so exciting.
She began to look more and more like a patient of Hospice. There were
bags under her eyes, and there was a lack of the usual pep in her
step and sunny disposition. She spent more and more time in her room;
complaining of pain in her foot and a tooth ache that was so painful
she did not want to get out of bed. She also contracted the stomach
flu. I hated seeing her in so much pain, and she did not like showing
she was in pain. I did my best to make her feel better by making her
cupcakes and watching Netflix with her, and it seemed to work. The
next week she looked happy and pain free! Despite that, I still
insisted that we just sit and watch movies. One particular day, I was
taking out her braids and we began to talk about all the fun things
we had done. We talked about the giant, glittery card I’d made for
her on her birthday and the one we made Dionne when her aunt passed
away. The following day before the weekend rolled in, we watched a
movie and Elisia ended up falling asleep. I remember how peaceful she
looked and she’d fallen asleep with a smile on her face; the smile
I had grown so used to seeing over the past few months. I had to slip
out of the room so as not to disturb her. Even though we had not done
anything exciting that day, I remember it like no other day we’d
ever spent together. I remember it so vividly because it was the last
day I would ever get to spend with Elisia.

following week I returned to Hospice where I learned from Dionne that
Elisia had been in an extreme amount of pain the day previous and had
insisted on going to the emergency room. Doctors began running tests
on her, and somewhere in between all of the medical poking and
prodding, Elisia’s heart gave out and she died. It was in this
moment that I learned that Elisia had a heart condition. When she’d
first gotten to Hospice, she was not expected to live for much longer
than a month. The tears and sadness that flowed from me were
unexpected. I hadn’t been that overcome with sadness since my
grandmother passed away. I felt like I’d lost my best friend
because I had. Her death was so unexpected. She had been just fine
when I’d saw her last, and now she was gone in the course of a
weekend. I had not the chance to even say goodbye to her.

and I had grown to be the best of friends, a companionship that went
beyond volunteer and patient. Dionne constantly reminded be that I
had been the one to fill the void of loneliness in her heart and a
true blessing in her life. As much as I appreciate the compliments, I
believe it to be the exact opposite. Elisia was a blessing in my
life. She taught me to value the sanctity to life because how long
you had to live was never guaranteed, no matter how healthy you
seemed. It is not just Elisia who taught me a lesson, however. In the
talk that I had with Dionne after Elisia’s passing, Dionne reminded
me how much I had grown since my first day at Hospice. I was impish,
shy, close-minded and unwilling to interact with patients. Now, I was
outgoing, easygoing, and had been best friends with Elisia. Dionne
explained to me that it took a truly matured adult to do what I had
done at Hospice and to have the relationship I had with Elisia. A
friendship like that of Elisia and I was rare at Hospice. Dionne was
right, I had changed a lot since coming to Hospice. I did see myself
as more of an adult.

up is a part of life that flows timelessly, sparked by certain
experiences, whether it be meeting a new person, traveling some place
new, or losing someone really important. How a person grows up
depends on life itself; its kinks, twist, and turns. Transitioning
from a child into an adult is not easy, however, and does not happen
overnight. Being a child, in my opinion, does not have to be a word
that labels your age. It can be a word that describes your
personality or the way you react to particular happenings. Elisia,
Dionne, the receptionist, and Hospice as a whole nurtured me into the
adult I was already becoming. To volunteer at Hospice, a matured out
look upon life is necessary. On my first day, I lacked that, but as
the days, weeks, and months passed I gained said outlook. I was born
outside the revolving doors of Hospice. Six months later, I left an
adult-in-progress. I have Elisia to thank for that, and I will be
forever and gratefully indebted.


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