Camarillo Hospice Stories


Once in a while when volunteering for Camarillo Hospice, you receive a special gift—a gift that is a true blessing. A sweet woman named Brenda gave me such a gift. My therapy dog, Holly, and I were given an assignment to visit an elderly, bedridden lady who recently had moved in with her daughter. She loved dogs and loved visitors. When Holly and I went to visit with Brenda, she was alert and full of joy at seeing my little Shih-Tzu. We had a lovely visit and were invited back.

On our next visit, the daughter was distraught, reporting her mother had taken a turn for the worse and

was not responding to anything. She suggested that we return home, but I asked if we could go in and visit with her anyway. She agreed that it wouldn’t hurt. Holly and I entered Brenda’s room and I put Holly on the bed next to Brenda’s hand. My little dog went to work licking the hand lovingly and there was a little twitch of response. I sat down and started singing songs that I have sung to my children and grandchildren for years. I got another little twitch of a response—very moving.

About 15 minutes later, having run out of “lullaby” songs, I switched to “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Brenda’s

mouth started moving in time with the words. I started laughing and a wonderful peace surrounded me—I knew that Brenda was in good hands. Holly was still licking away, doing her part. After hugging Brenda and wishing her a joyful trip, Holly and I quietly left the room. I shared the experience with Brenda’s daughter and said how it moved me. The experience has stayed with me, wandering through my mind, giving me goose bumps, making me feel truly blessed. Laurie Davis called the next day to tell me that Brenda had passed. Again the memory ran through my mind and made me smile, as it has done many times since. I know that Brenda is enjoying her “ball game.”

The number of people choosing hospice and palliative care increases annually. Nationally, more than 4,000 hospice  programs cared for over 1.3 million people last year, and 400,000+ hospice volunteers contributed more than  18 million hours of service, including our own dedicated Camarillo Hospice volunteers. These are some of their stories.


Eighty-year-old Peter sought counseling after his wife of almost 60 years died. He had been her caregiver for ten years as she declined with two progressive illnesses that included dementia as part of the  progression. Peter wanted to review his life with his wife, review his efforts as a caregiver, mourn the loss of his long-time partner, and figure out how to create the next part of his life in a fulfilling way.

An additional immediate concern was what to do about a woman from his caregivers group who was  clearly interested in him. Peter had only been involved with one woman through his whole adult life:  his wife, to whom he had proposed at age 19. Our work together initially focused on practical communication skills, dating protocol, and how to disentangle himself from the woman he felt was pursuing him (and in whom he was not interested)—as kindly as possible.

Next we spent a number of weeks exploring the gifts and challenges of his long marriage, the joys and sorrows of caregiving during his wife’s years of decline, and along with these issues, his deep grief about her death and the strengths and skills he brought to learning to live well without her. Finally, we explored the theme of Peter’s “legacy” to his children and his community, and the ways he felt he had fallen short or lived his life successfully.

Soon Peter remarked that he was regularly engaging socially with old friends and that he was planning an international trip with an old traveling buddy. Not long after that he reported having met the mother of a friend of one of his adult children and that they had really hit it off, although she lived on the opposite side of the country and was just visiting for a short time.

Peter soon decided he no longer needed counseling, expressed his gratitude for the support and encouragement, and terminated our work. Many months later our counselor encountered him in a grocery store. He was delighted to see our counselor and reported that he and his new female friend were having regular cross-country visits and had enjoyed several trips together. He said he felt he had the best of all worlds—his home and local community, someone to love and spend time with, and peace with his life. The counselor is truly honored to have been able to share in some part of his life’s journey, and told him so.


Eight-year-old Roger became a participant in the Camarillo Hospice Bereavement Support and Education Program when his dad learned about our programs through his school. Roger had behavior problems in school, including poor grades, fighting and isolating behaviors. His mother had died three years earlier.

Roger's parents were separated and Roger had lived with his mom, rarely seeing his dad. When Roger was five years old, his mother committed suicide while Roger was away visiting his dad at Christmas time. Roger told school personnel that he missed his mom the most when he saw other children being picked up from school by their families, and he felt he had no one in his life. After his mom died, Roger stayed with his father, whom he barely knew, and with his aunt, who was not particularly nurturing. It was advantageous that Camarillo Hospice was outreaching to the Oxnard area and our counselor was able to make home visits, since both cost and transportation were issues for this low-income family.

The counselor focused on building a relationship between the child and father (including helping the father to interact in meaningful ways with his son) and encouraged Roger to develop pictures and ceremonies about his mother. He drew pictures of his mom and buried pictures of her in his backyard, since he had not been allowed to go to the funeral. Roger and his father never missed an appointment because Roger always reminded his dad that they “had to go.” The mother’s sister had kept Roger’s mother’s ashes, and the counselor helped secure some ashes for Roger to keep in a locket provided by the mortuary. During the counseling sessions, Roger’s grades went up, he made friends, and he got awards in math and reading. Roger participated in the individual counseling sessions for six months.


Inez called us soon after the death of her husband in a motorcycle accident. She was 27 years old, and they had been married for 8 years. She had a full-time job with a mortgage company in Simi Valley, and it was difficult for her to drive to Camarillo after work, but she was desperate for grief support. All of her family lives in Peru. Her in-laws live near her, but they began to pressure her to give them some of the insurance money from her husband's death, so she felt alienated from them. She attended our Young Widows and Widowers Group for several months before she requested individual counseling. As she spent time with her hospice counselor, it became clear that she had more serious issues than the grief over her husband's death. She had no supportive network of friends or co-workers and no skills for creating this safety net.

The counselor concluded that she had obsessive-compulsive disorder and referred her to a psychiatrist for that as well as depression. She probably had both of these underlying conditions while she was married, but her symptoms were manageable as long as her husband was there to support her. When this support fell away, the combination of grief and depressive symptoms became too much for her to cope with. She has had suicidal thoughts as well, but they seem to be under control with the help of an anti-depressent medication and weekly meetings with her hospice counselor. She is slowly learning to reach out to others for social contact and help, and she is building a sense of confidence in her  ability to negotiate the world as a single woman.




400 Rosewood Ave., Suite 102

Camarillo, CA 93010

Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

(805) 389-6870  •  Fax (805) 389-0296


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