Friday, July 16th, 2010
Area volunteer tells of benefits he receives
By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - Twenty years of hospice volunteering have reinforced one area man's trust in God.
Bob Lammers of Minster, a 30-year employee of Midmark in Versailles, told St. Marys Rotarians on Wednesday he fully believes God sends people to teach others life lessons. Many of his lessons have come through working with terminally ill people.
"I think I got my inclination to volunteer from my mom, who did her volunteering under the radar. She'd do whatever she could to help someone and then move on to another person who needed help. At her funeral we heard so many stories of her good works that we'd never heard before," Lammers said, adding that volunteering has touched his own life in many ways beginning in Texas.
He was in Dallas on business several years ago when he got the call that his dad, who was suffering with cancer, had taken a bad turn and Lammers should come home.
Upset and flustered, he left the conference, hurried back to the hotel, packed and hailed a cab for the hour's drive to the airport.
The cabbie realized that his passenger was distressed and asked what was wrong.
"For some reason I told him my whole story about wanting more time with my dad and how he was dying. I was so scared I wouldn't get home in time. ... I'd never done anything like that before," he said.
The cabbie responded sympathetically and told Lammers to calm down. "Trust in God. Be calm. I have a feeling you'll have more time with your father," the cabbie said.
Sure enough, the elder Lammers lived on another couple months and had many talks with his son.
Impressed with the hospice service his dad received, Lammers signed up for the training and offered to volunteer one hour a week if it could be arranged during lunch hours or after work.
Then came Charlie, an angry 52-year-old truck driver and motorcycle rider, who was terminally ill man. Charlie wanted no help and no "God-crap."
Lammers' hospice office told him they'd had no luck with Charlie and that they felt he would respond well to a man.
"They warned me he was vocally abusive to friends, family and hospice workers. They made sure I knew Charlie absolutely did not want to see me," he said.
Charlie was lying with his back to the door when Lammers entered and began yelling, cursing and screaming immediately. Lammers was quiet.
"That's when he said 'I don't want to hear any God-crap from you.' I told him I wouldn't mention it, but I would pray for him and his struggle," Lammers said.
He called Charlie again and again with no success. The hospice coordinator contacted Lammers later and said Charlie was much, much worse but needed medication delivered. Lammers could deliver it.
"When I arrived the apartment door was open and he called me to come on in. He told me he was glad to see me and agreed I could come back in a week, but no God talk or miracle stuff," he said.
The two men had many heavy discussions over the next several weeks. At the last visit he noticed Charlie was wearing a religious medal. He didn't ask about it and Charlie didn't say.
"He had so much anger because he had lost control of his life," he said.
The man exercised his last act of control: He planned his own funeral service and chose Lammers to give the eulogy.
"I spoke of love and respect and staying open to all challenges," he said.
The funeral procession was something Versailles had never seen. Accompanying Charlie to his grave were 15 motorcycles and 30 semi-tractor trailer rigs - love and respect for their comrade.
Lammers has learned lessons in his two decades of volunteering. "I know who and what matters ... I ask people to be the change you want to see in the world," he said.
He ended with a quote from his uncle, the late Louis Fullenkamp of St. Henry: "If you worry, don't pray. If you pray, don't worry."