Retired pediatrician brings comfort to patients at end-of-life
Prescott, AZ – Dr. Martin Boxer is no stranger to change. The retired pediatrician has shifted his focus from the very young to those at the end of life. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, you could find him every Friday at the Good Samaritan’s Marley House, an inpatient hospice in Prescott, Arizona, where he is a volunteer. And that suits him just fine.
“I’ve come full circle,” Boxer says. “As a pediatrician, I did not have much experience with the elderly or the dying. Now, I do a little bit of everything.” ‘Everything’ includes bringing food to patients, offering lotion for dry skin, or just listening.
The secret of long life … and other stories
Boxer says he tries to make life easier for the Marley House’s patients. His goal is simple: a smile, whether from a patient, a family member or an employee. His favorite part of volunteering is hearing the patients’ stories.
“One question sometimes ask is ‘what is the secret to long life?’” Boxer says. “I asked one gentleman who was over 100 years old. His answer wasn’t what you expect; he didn’t say, ‘don’t drink’ or ‘don’t smoke.’
“It was fly fishing,” Boxer says. “And he was worried that the person who inherited his equipment wasn’t going to take proper care of it.”
Another patient had traveled the world as a pianist until a stroke took away his ability to play as well as he used to. Boxer encouraged him to try again. When he returned the following week, Boxer learned that the man had given an hour-long concert for the staff and other patients on the Marley House’s keyboard.
Music is a big part of the Marley House. Another man brought his wife for respite care. He warned the staff that she didn’t speak anymore. Then Boxer learned that she was originally from Detroit and loved Motown music. When staff pulled up the music on his cell phone, she started to sing.
“She knew every word!” Boxer says. “We were all singing along with her. That was a good afternoon.”
Simple acts add up to meaningful experience
There are two kinds of patients at the Marley House: those whose families need a respite and those who are in their last few hours or days of life.
“Sometimes their families may have gone home for the day or live out of town and haven’t arrived yet. They just need someone in the room with them, to hold their hand,” he says. “As a volunteer, I can do that.”
Helping others helps volunteers too
Boxer and his wife, Sandy, first settled in Prescott after they retired. They had lived in Anaheim, California; Tempe, Arizona; and Australia and New Zealand, where he worked as a traveling physician in remote areas.
The couple traveled around the United States, camped in tents, and looked for the perfect place to retire. Then, after three years Sandy discovered she had cancer.
The last few days of her life, her pain became too great for local hospice service to handle at home. She came to the Marley House, where she passed away. It was just weeks after her diagnosis.
“The staff were tremendously helpful,” Boxer says, “to both of us.”
Gifts can ensure the mission continues
“I think I’m a better person since I’ve started volunteering,” Boxer says. “It’s changed me quite a bit.”
He volunteers for other organizations but the Marley House is the one he says he is dedicated to. That’s why he’s helping promote it with the second annual Bob Mariano Memorial Golf Classic and the endowment fund it supports. You can see him sink a putt in the latest promotional video for the event, www.good-sam.com/marleygolf which has been postponed until Oct. 27, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The people at the Marley House are really wonderful. I don’t think many in Prescott know it’s here and they should,” he says. “We need to make sure it’s here, that it continues.”
To support the mission of the Good Samaritan – Marley House, you can make an online gift or call Gretchen Gallagher at 928.460.9678 to discuss other giving options. To sign up for the 2nd Annual Bob Mariano Memorial Golf Classic, visit www.good-sam.com/marleygolf.
Note: This interview took place before the Good Samaritan put visitor and volunteer restrictions in place to protect patients’ health and well-being due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boxer looks forward to returning soon.