Richard Tyson knows you never forget what it is like to go through a tragedy.
Thirty years ago, his daughter Janine died of cancer at the age of 17, leaving a void that can still cause his voice to tremble as he speaks about her. But the 70-year-old says he’s found a comforting way to help others who are going through a similar loss of a loved one.
Richard has been a hospice volunteer for the past three years with Liberty Hospice in Wadesboro, N.C., and helps families cope during what can be a very difficult time in their lives. Along the way, Richard has been able to help himself too.
“Volunteering provides a channel to honor my daughter,” he said. “I see people that are going through this, and I know that what I am doing is helping to fill a void that I didn’t have filled when my daughter died. You really need someone to talk to, and I am glad that I am able to do that for others now.”
Richard’s involvement came almost overnight. Liberty chaplain David Lee needed someone to comfort a hospice patient in their final days, and he turned to Richard, a longtime friend. It wasn’t expected to be a long-term move, but Richard said he knew immediately that being a hospice volunteer was the right decision.
“My wife and I prayed about it, and we knew this was a way we could help some folks,” he said. “We realized these folks are on limited time and we know how hard it can be.”
Rosa Tyson, Richard’s second wife, had exposure to hospice care when her sister had cancer, and she wanted to get involved as well. The Tysons spend several hours a month visiting patients – running errands for them or just talking to them to help them cope with their condition.
“Maybe I can make their lives a little better,” he said. “This has really been a blessing to both my wife and I.”
Richard Tyson said he intends to continue serving as a hospice volunteer as long as his health allows. He said Father’s Day isn’t his most difficult day because his other daughter Jamie now has children and grandchildren of her own. But Janine’s birthday comes June 22, and that along with the date of her death are still very painful to him.
My wife and I are able to share our experiences with patients,” Tyson said. “Sometimes it is not the easiest thing in the world to talk about, but we know it helps them. We know we might all shed a few tears, but we will handle what comes. I just feel very blessed to be able to help.”