It takes a special person to give of himself or herself for the benefit of others. On several levels, Darrell Clifton and Becca Manyo are two of those special people.
Community college students ages 19 and 22, respectively, Darrell and Becca are two of the newest – and youngest - volunteers at Mercy Hospital Independence. Not only have they broken the mold for the average volunteer profile, they have taken on a role that folks two and three times their age might shy away from.
In February, the couple signed on to assist the brand new “Shepherd’s Watch” ministry, a service in which trained volunteers work in shifts to sit with hospital patients who are at the end of life and are without family or loved ones of their own to support them through the dying process.
Through their local church, Darrell learned about the new program at Mercy and its need for volunteers. The idea resonated with Darrell as a good, meaningful opportunity for the couple, and Becca agreed.
“I thought it would be great if Becca and I could spend time together doing something productive that would benefit other people,” Darrell said. “We felt like it was a God thing.”
Along with being led by God, Darrell and Becca were both influenced by a recent life experience, the passing of Becca’s father, Charles Manyo, last year at Mercy Hospital.
“I was blessed to never have anyone I know die until last year, when Becca’s father passed,” Darrell said. “That really helped my eyes be opened to people who need care at the end of life.”
Becca explained that her father had been very sick and in and out of hospitals for several years, and the fact that he was surrounded by family at the time of his death, she felt, was a blessing every individual deserves.
“My family was all able to be here with him,” she said. “I want to be able to help those who are dying and have no family.”
Their first Shepherd’s Watch opportunity came less than a week after their training, Darrell recalled. They were assigned to two consecutive overnight shifts with a patient who was at the end of her life.
“I guess they thought we were young and didn’t need a lot of sleep, so they called us in for the midnight shift,” he said.
The couple tackled the four-hour shift together the first night, then split the shift the second night. Becca had recently had a schedule change in her job as a preschool teacher at Noah’s Arkademy daycare and she was “a little worried about working with small children without having much sleep.”
Darrell, too, had his full-time college class load to consider, and along with concerns about losing sleep, he admitted he felt a little apprehensive when he received the first call to sit with a dying patient.
“I was definitely a little uncomfortable. But you can never get experience unless you just do it,” he said. “The more I get out of my comfort zone, the larger (the zone) gets, and that’s a good thing.”
For Becca, there was some concern about how this first assignment might stir her own memories of her father’s death. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but she knew she had to answer the call.
“When my dad was really sick, he would sleep all day and be awake at night, so I was wondering if we would talk with her (the Shepherd’s Watch patient) in the night or what we might need to do,” Becca said.
As it turned out, the patient slept peacefully through both nights, and the couple’s shifts were uneventful. They later received a text message from the hospital’s Pastoral Care director to inform them that the patient had passed. Closure.
Regardless of the job or the outcome, both Darrell and Becca find individual gratification in serving others. In addition to Shepherd’s Watch, their volunteer work includes providing transportation for children to and from church services, and Darrell also serves with the area rural fire department.
For Darrell, volunteering is a purposeful, conscious decision.
“It’s easy to be prideful and think about only yourself,” he said. “You have to have a mentality of putting others first.”
For Becca, the desire to serve is part of her DNA.
“It’s just always been like that,” Becca said. “Everybody has needs. It’s second nature to want to care for other people.”