Living A Life of Service
Bill and I met late morning at a local coffee shop on a crisp and sunny fall day. I imagined that he had been busy running errands and in between was stopping by to chat with me, yet he approached with a peaceful presence that was instantly apparent as we began our conversation. The wisdom I immediately sensed in this elderly gentleman began to slowly show itself through his sharing of significant life experiences and a strong commitment to fulfilling his life’s higher purpose.
With many community ties to Hosparus of Louisville (via personal connections through church along with his own sister’s husband’s direct experience with the organization), Bill recognized the significant need that Hosparus fulfills. To him, serving as a hospice volunteer is merely another way to serve others. He and his wife, Billie, of more than fifty years, together decided early on to make their home and life one of hospitality.
To this day, he believes: “I’m not alive for me, I’m alive to help others.” This mission of service drives Bill to volunteer for the Hosparus Intensive Care Unit on Saturday afternoons, the Grief Counseling Center on the second and fourth Thursday of the month and respite home visits during the week.
Bill’s early experience of loss was profound, recalling the death of his father when he was only five years old. He recounted the story, pausing to find the right words, of seeing the impact of his father’s death and how it affected his life afterwards.
He described the experience as: “Having opened his soul to another dimension of life—another perspective about life; ‘an experience that changed him forever.”
As we delved further into how the volunteer service experience for Hosparus has changed his life and what he has learned through many patient encounters, profound reflections began to surface and I found myself half-teasingly asking: “Could you be at my bedside when I die?”
Surprisingly, Bill did not describe his volunteer experience as “life changing” (most volunteers do). Rather, he feels volunteering is what keeps him going, receiving satisfaction from helping people; “I don’t need drugs, or the opportunity to travel the world to feel fulfilled, just the opportunity to serve.” And, within that service, he draws strength from his connection to a higher being, a God with whom gives him profound satisfaction and security.
However, Bill does acknowledge that many experiences with Hosparus patients are a reminder to him of what is important in life.
“To me, I’m aware of what connects us, not what makes us different,” he tells me.
I asked him if maybe this was the gift we can’t always articulate as volunteers.
He nodded in agreement and added: “I think it is a verification of what life’s ambition is all about.” And, he added: “What’s happening is the more experiences you have, the wiser you become. To me, I’m in school everyday and I’m going to learn how to be a better person.”
It is gratifying to know someone as wise as Bill Carpenter.
Bill Carpenter’s Reflections
Bill is a volunteer with Hosparus
- Live a life of service to others
- Nurture the awareness of what connects us, not what makes us different