One of the best parts about working in hospice is getting to know our patients. Most have lived long, full lives and they have amazing life stories to tell. Some have traveled the world serving in the Military. Some have seen wars. Some were present during major historical events. Some were very successful in business. Some stayed home and raised a family. Some were artists, some were beautiful singers, and some drove motorcycles around the country. But, no matter what they did, or how successful they became, they all have a story to tell. Getting to know our patients, as we serve them, helps us become more closely connected to them. These stories help us understand our patients on a personal level.
Occasionally we have the opportunity to care for someone who has led a life of service towards others. When this happens it makes our service is so much sweeter. Being able to give back to a person who has given so much, is rewarding. We recently had the opportunity to do just that for a lovely lady named Marlene Steffan. “Marlene has shown a lot of different ways to love,” says Heart ‘n Home Care Navigator Mandy. Mandy discovered a true volunteering spirit during her visits with Marlene. She shares, “Marlene has an amazing life story revolving around her volunteer efforts.”
Marlene recalled how her upbringing directed her many life choices. “I was raised by my grandmother in San Diego, California. She was Hispanic and taught our family to treat everyone with equal respect. No one was different in her eyes.” She continues, “We were one of the founding Catholic families of St. Francis Diosis of San Diego over 80 years ago. This has become the largest church in San Diego over time and I have been involved in the church activities my entire life. My faith has given my life meaning.”
“If someone needed help, I would simply step up and do it. I never considered the things I did as anything other than being a helper,” Marlene shared during a recent visit. Her earliest memory of volunteering was at a women’s retreat with her church. “Over 30 years ago, a group of us ladies were asked if we would like to serve coffee and set up tables at the retreat. We raised our hands for selfish reasons since we wanted to get the first cup of coffee,” she giggles as she recalls her experience. “We soon found out we were the last to be served, everyone else came first. I loved it so much, I continued helping for the next 30 years.”
Her life of service wouldn’t be limited to serving coffee. Marlene continued to find ways to serve her church and her community. Her service led her to meet many people over the years. One of her most cherished memories is of the time she met the Pope as seen in this photo. She shared the story with her Personal Care Assistant, Peggy F. and she posed for a photo.
“One of the earliest things our church started was a sack lunch ministry for anyone that wanted one, without restrictions. During an economic downturn, a lot of people lost their jobs and were out of work. We soon realized there was a crisis and we needed to get food to people right away. We came up with the idea of making food available by making lunches. I was in charge of figuring out the finances and putting together the supplies necessary.” She knows this was a successful ministry since it continued for over 20 years. Marlene humbly admits that her job as a high ranking Financial Analyst for the military helped her succeed with her volunteering opportunities.
As time went on Marlene eventually became the president of the local St Vincent De Paul’s organization. This led her to be involved in distributing a “House in a Box” to victims of the Napa Valley Fire. She tells how she was a Third Responder, going in after the fires were out and it was a safe zone again. “People had lost everything they owned and needed supplies to start over. A “House in a Box” was a mattress, chair, table, dishes, and more. Everything to establish a living area.” When Marlene had distributed all the boxes but there was still a need, instead of leaving people behind, she petitioned for more and received enough money to provide everyone with a box.
Her years of service are admirable. Even while on hospice, Marlene’s altruistic ways have not ceased. Her desire to help others remains. She told our Care Navigator Mandy that she wished that she could help others find hospice. She wanted to share her story and even agreed to make a video to show others. She said, “I wish more people knew about hospice and all of the help they give. I am learning every day more and more about how hospice helps people live a better life.”
Watch this video of Marlene as she tells how the Heart ‘n Home Hospice team works together to help her achieve her goals. She also encourages others to consider hospice.