Study after study suggests that people, once they retire from work, find something to occupy their time and stimulate their minds. Those who do tend to live longer, healthier lives, and the social interaction may go a long way to keeping folks young.
If those theories are true, St. Simons Island resident Charlotte Raymond, on the eve of her 93rd birthday, has found the proverbial Fountain of Youth. Since retiring from a high-powered career with the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., more than three decades ago, she has volunteered for Hospice of the Golden Isles. After retiring, she told friends she needed “something” to keep her occupied, and before she knew it, she was a member of the HGI Board of Directors. Since she jumped on board with hospice 35 years ago, she has performed a number of volunteer jobs, but there are a couple she’s known for in particular, including scrapbooks that detail the “life” of hospice, and her much-in-demand prayer shawls.
“I started those,” Raymond said, referring to the scrapbooks. Several times a week, she painstakingly combs the local newspaper and area periodicals for items about HGI, cuts them out and places them in a scrapbook. Raymond can’t quite recall how long she’s been maintaining the scrapbooks, but says there are enough volumes for them to earn their own designated space. “There are volumes of scrapbooks from since hospice started; someone even made or bought a bookcase for them.”
She also collects obituaries, which she calls a “requirement.”
“When a person who has been in hospice dies, I cut it (the obituary) out and put it in a folder,” Raymond said. “Then, when someone from hospice goes to visit the family, it provides a way for them to offer intelligent conversation and advice.”
Obituaries often contain information about surviving family members, the decedent’s education and career and lifestyle. Knowing those sorts of things can be helpful to a counselor when trying to assist grieving family members.
Raymond is extremely humble, and doesn’t want any attention for her work, but she’s known to many families who have passed through the doors at HGI as the “prayer shawl lady.”
Hand-knitted prayer shawls are given to patients to comfort them as they live out their final days. Raymond says their significance is no small thing.
“They are warm and cuddly,” she said. “I don’t think some patients can even comprehend they’ve gotten them, but they still find them comforting. They work.”
Raymond prays small, simple prayers while she knits the shawls.
“Then they are blessed prior to the patient receiving them by Dr. Mike (the Rev. Michael Cordle, chaplain at HGI),” she said, adding that many patients in hospice care don’t receive gifts. “It’s so gratifying to make these; you know they’re going to someone who will enjoy them.”
After a patient dies, the families often hold onto the prayer shawls and they become a piece of a particular family’s history.
Raymond’s work for the nonprofit organization, which accepts patients no matter their ability to pay, hasn’t gone unnoticed. An annual golf tournament, to raise money for HGI, was begun, but this year, is being retooled into a “Cocktails With Charlotte” party at 6 p.m. Aug. 3 in the Sea Palms Clubhouse on St. Simons Island. Admission is $25 per person. The event will feature heavy hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, a silent auction and a live auction that will feature a number of Raymond’s prayer shawls and many other items. Visit hospice.me for details.
As is her way, Raymond doesn’t want the focus to be on her, but rather on the good work hospice does.
“I get 100 percent more from hospice than what I give,” she said. “Hospice is a way of life for me.”