Some people are surprised when we talk about the gift of making memories in hospice, but those of us who accompany people through end-of-life know it happens. And some of us have had the privilege of being there as they are made. We would like to share some of our memorable moments with you.
Dick made a memory in hospice
Our Lady of Peace Hospice caregivers were honored to join Navy Machinery Repairman Petty Officer Third Class Dick Savard and his daughters on a trip of a lifetime in his final days. They provided the medical care Dick needed while traveling to Norfolk, VA to tour the first nuclear powered submarine that he repaired while serving in the Navy in 1964. Dick admitted that death is the first thing he thought of when hearing the word hospice, but in his final months, he lived life to the fullest. Daughter Chrissy recalls the experience: “We had always talked about going back to see the USS Nautilus, but never did it. When the cancer came, I realized that we had to make the trip because I knew how much it meant to him.” And now, Chrissy and her sister, Lisa, have a happy memory from their dad’s time in hospice. Read Dick’s full story.
Gloria made a memory in hospice
In her final days of life at Our Lady of Peace, Gloria created a memory of a lifetime, when she met Archbishop Bernard Hebda who anointed and blessed her. Gloria’s eyes were filled with joy when she saw the Archbishop in the Courtyard at the Our Lady of Peace Hospice Residence, and later when he walked into her room. Gloria told staff that she never dreamed that she would meet him in person, but she did. A photo was taken during their time together, and it was framed and placed in her room. Her children now have the photo as a lasting memory.
A couple renewed their wedding vows in hospice
OLP Chaplain Judith Oberhauser shares a story of a woman who was dying of pancreatic cancer, and her husband who was grieving. “I don’t know what I’ll do without her,” he said. The couple had three young sons. To find the best way to comfort him, Judith asked the family to bring photo albums into the hospice, so she and the hospice team could learn more about the family’s life and the things their wife and mother loved. As a result, they were able to see their patient as a happy wife and mother who loved her family, and gardening, sparking conversations and the sharing of memories. At one point, the husband told OLP staff that their wedding anniversary was near. Committed to making a happy memory at a time that he felt so much pain, the team suggested that they renew their vows. “We could do that?”, asked the husband. “Of course, we can,” said the staff.
Judith says on the day of the ceremony, the husband came into his wife’s room, “dressed to the nines,” and he brought roses from his wife’s garden. She put on her wig, and the service began. “They spoke of being happy together, and they shared happy memories. The experience became more holy as I watched their love grow during these moments,” says Judith. The husband said that spending this time together was like a second honeymoon, bringing joy amid the sadness. When she passed, she held his hand and closed her eyes.
Chaplain Judith says, “There is something we can extract from life energy. When we awaken moments of what was and is sacred to our patients and families, memories are made, even at end-of-life. Sometimes it opens the door to conversations that they never thought were possible, and that becomes the memory. When you unleash the wounds and let people be vulnerable, there is peace.”