After 50+ years of volunteer community service, Mary Cliver was grateful for the Samaritan patient volunteer, pet therapy volunteer and vigil volunteers who visited as part of her hospice care team.
Plato has written, “Kindness is difficult to give away because it keeps coming back.” Samaritan hospice patient, Mary Cliver, was living proof of Plato’s wisdom.
As a young newlywed in 1954, Mary honored the wish of her husband that she not take a job outside the home. When it came to volunteering, however, his view was, “As long as you’re home to share a home-cooked dinner with me, volunteer all you want.”
And volunteer she did! Mary devoted her life to community service logging more than 50 years with the Virtua-Mt. Holly gift shop, the Medford Library, a Mt. Holly soup kitchen and the Summer Bible School of her 1st Presbyterian Church of Mt. Holly.
When the sister-in-law who served as Mary’s driver stopped volunteering, Mary got her driver’s license so she could continue the work that was so gratifying to her. She continued driving herself well into her 80’s.
In 2006, Virtua honored Mary for 50 years and more than 7,000 hours of service to its gift shop – longer than any other volunteer at that time.
At the hospital, Mary worked behind the counter in the Holly Shop once a week; twice a month, she’d push a gift shop cart to patients’ rooms selling sundries — but more importantly, sharing smiles, stories and kindness.
Mary, who turned 90 in July 2013, started receiving hospice care from Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice in February. It was then that more than 50 years of service to others came full circle as she became the recipient of caring volunteer services.
She looked forward to visits from her hospice team who helped her cope with the pain, symptoms and isolation of her advancing Parkinson’s Disease, said Samaritan social worker Joan Ordille. This team included a physician, nurse, social worker, certified home health aide, spiritual support counselor, massage therapist – and a team of volunteers. Patient volunteer Ellen Salmon visited regularly to provide companionship; Pet Therapy volunteer Joan Byrne visited with Brooke, her certified Standard Poodle therapy dog, to share Brooke’s special brand of canine comfort.
As Mary’s condition advanced, said Joan, the hospice team became increasingly concerned about having someone with Mary during her final hours to reduce her anxiety when family members and friends were unable to visit. “We wanted Mary to feel the support and love that she had given to so many others over the years,” said Joan, who asked the Volunteer staff to arrange a schedule of vigil volunteers to be present with her.
Sandy Monaghan was one of several vigil volunteers who took turns being with Mary.She recalls, “When I first entered Mary’s room, I saw a framed tribute to her 50+ years of volunteer service during her lifetime and I read her the many cards, notes and letters from family, friends and other Samaritan employees and volunteers who had been to visit her. She was not able to respond verbally but I knew she appreciated me being there…. A tear came to her eyes as she laid there in bed. Mary had given so much to others during her life time, now it was her time to receive that love back.”
Kathy Goldstrom, another vigil volunteer, said, “It was pretty obvious that this lady was an angel on earth to others, so it was a privilege to be there for her.” Kathy was present when Mary’s nephew, Paul, drove her elderly sister for a final visit. “They seemed to find comfort knowing Mary had caring people with her.”
Mary passed on October 14, 2013. She died comfortably at the Virtua Health and Rehab in Mount Holly, having been well supported by Samaritan’s Vigil Volunteer Program. Through your support, Samaritan was able to honor Mary, to support her end-of- life care need and to give back a small portion of what this dedicated woman so deserved after a lifetime of service.