Jackie Sinwelski became a volunteer for Providence Hospice in 2015. A year later, her husband passed away from cancer.
“If I wouldn’t have had that background working in this field, I really don’t think I would’ve survived that,” Jackie says.
That background includes a lifelong passion of working with people with memory care issues. “I tell people that I was really blessed to find my calling early,” she says. “At age 16, I got a job as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home, and I never looked back.”
Jackie also worked as a CNA and Life Enrichment Assistant in two different Providence communities prior to her work as a volunteer or Providence Hospice. “I’ve been with many people at the moment that they passed,” she said. “It’s incredible the way God prepares you for things you wouldn’t have ever planned for.”
Jackie’s work as a volunteer for Providence Hospice includes offering respite services for families of patients. “When you have a loved one that is in hospice, it’s hard to step away from them without knowing someone is going to be right there, focused on that one person,” she says. “So I go into their homes and I give a break to their families. They can go out to lunch, get some errands done.”
Jackie knows from experience that life doesn’t stop just because you are losing someone you love. “You need time to do what you have to do,” she says. “And you need to be able to step away, even for a couple hours, for your own mental health.”
Jackie’s respite commitment is two hours at a time, which passes pretty quickly. “We play games, read trivia, talk about our grandkids,” she says. “We play music, and maybe I’ll paint their nails. We’re laughing and having a good time. Then I look up and those 2 hours are gone.”
Talking about herself is difficult for Jackie, but talking about her work comes easily. “When I talk about this, it’s exciting because I know it’s not me. It’s God working through this ministry.”
“My prayer every morning is that I would be the face and voice of Jesus to someone today.” –Jackie Sinwelski, volunteer for Providence Hospice
While it was still a difficult time for Jackie when her husband died, she feels blessed that she was able to support her family through the process. “I could separate myself because I was used to the setting,” she says. “My mentality was, ‘I know what I’m doing here. I know I can do this. I know I can get through this.’”
And when the time came to say goodbye, she was prepared. “When it was the end, I told my kids and stepkids what was going to happen. We were all there when he stopped breathing, and I explained what they were seeing and feeling was normal, and that he was gone.”
Losing her husband didn’t deter Jackie from her hospice calling. In fact, she is looking to expand what she can offer in the hospice field by becoming an end-of-life doula. “The doula is certified to go into a hospice setting and to educate the patient and family about what to expect in the coming days,” she explains. “You’re not as emotionally invested as the family, so you can step back and help them understand and support them through what’s coming next.”
In addition to respite work, Jackie also makes fidget blankets for patients and donates time and materials to life enrichment staff to enhance their activities. She’s always looking for ways she can give to those around her.
“My prayer every morning is that I would be the face and voice of Jesus to someone today,” she says. “Even if it’s just a smile to someone I pass, even if I never know it made a difference. Even if just for a second, someone feels seen.”
Jackie is committed to continuing her work as a volunteer, even though it can be difficult. “Of course, it’s hard to see someone go, someone you’ve been meeting with and caring for and being a friend to,” she says. “It’s tough to do, but for that moment I’m giving them something. In an hour, they may not remember me, but for two hours, they had something. And so did I.