Posts Tagged ‘houston

The Joy of Living as Shared by a Hospice Patient

 

April 10, 2012—Another Hospice volunteer and I sit at the bedside of an animated, talkative 97-year-old African American woman whom I’ll call “Louise.” Her thin face is haloed with a white cotton turban, and her eyes sparkle with good humor. She tells us that she fell in her home and broke a hip, the first broken bone in her long life and her first time having to go to a hospital. She was able to reach the phone to call for help, and she waited quietly lying on the floor until her sister arrived.

 

While the doctors were examining her, they found that Louise had metastasized cancer. Today she reminisces about picking cotton and corn as a child on her family’s riverside farm in the small town of Edna, Texas. Louise never married, but after finishing elementary school, she worked as a housekeeper for a couple who moved north to Chicago. When the husband died, she followed the ailing wife to a retirement community in Florida and cared for her until her death. Nineteen years ago, Louise moved back to Texas to be near her extended family. She lists the names of her siblings and nieces and nephews, and gives us their birth dates. When I asked the date of her own birthday, she boasts, “I’ll turn 98 on April 21.” She says, “People tell me that I have lots of stories to tell.” Joan and I assure her that she surely does. Louise still has a group of friends whom she wants to notify about where she is. Some are in nursing homes, and they still manage to stay in touch.

 

April 17, 2012—Louise is delighted to see me again and asks me to switch off the TV that the nurses have left on for her entertainment. She’d much rather chat and regale me with the same stories she told me the week before.  She is excited about her upcoming 98th birthday party on April 21 and tells me she always hoped she’d live to be 100. When the preacher from her neighborhood Baptist church arrives to pray with her, she treats him with deep respect. I leave them to their prayers and encounter Anne, the social worker in the hallway. She says that Louise is too healthy to stay at the inpatient unit of Hospice, and that paperwork is in motion to have her transferred to another facility.

 

April 24, 2012—I notice a bunch of shiny balloons still inflated on the ceiling in one corner of the room. Louise tells me about her cousins, nieces, nephews and step-sister escorting her in a wheel chair to celebrate her birthday in the courtyard with soup and ice cream and other soft foods “that I can eat with my dentures.” I hear all about the music and presents and laughter, and suddenly Louise is quiet. We both realize that the party’s over and that unless a miracle occurs it’s the last birthday she will celebrate.

 

I ask if she’d like me to read her some psalms. Louise responds, “Whatever you do for me, honey, I accept gratefully.” But before I reach for her Bible, she recites aloud by memory part of Psalm #23 and the entire Lord’s Prayer.  She confides, “I say those words every morning as soon as I’m awake and repeat them at bedtime, when I send prayers to any loved ones who are especially needy.” Louise reminisces about singing spirituals in her Baptist-Methodist farmland church. I sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho and Amazing Grace with her, and she chimes in, with a grin on her emaciated face. Afterwards, Louise admits, “I can’t sing worth a darn, but if someone else is singing, I can’t help but join in. I don’t understand the words to modern songs, but those spirituals bring me right back to my childhood.” Just as I’m leaving the room, a hospice volunteer named Loretta visits with her 4-pound “therapy dog,” Gigi—small and gentle enough to cuddle up next to Louise, who claims to be frightened of big dogs.

 

May 1, 2012—I arrive with my guitar to accompany our spirituals, eager to see Louise, and I’m stunned by her transformation. She is asleep in her bed, without all the pillows that usually prop up her back. Her body looks tiny, and now that her mouth is free of dentures, her face is shrunken. She is breathing so lightly that her chest barely moves. I decide to sing quietly at her bedside. She makes no response, and I hope that the familiar melodies are reaching her on a subconscious level. I realize that once her 98th birthday party has come and gone, and everyone she loves has shown up to honor her, Louise is ready to let go of life. She is tired and doesn’t want to be transferred to a long-term care facility. Silently bidding her farewell, I slip out of the room. I know that it’s likely that this is my last view of her. Louise has given me the gift of her joie de vivre, and I feel grateful to her.

–Houston Hospice volunteer, Ginger Clarkson

Volunteerplayingguitarandsingingtopatient

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The 2012 Butterfly Luncheon

Ron Hall

Houston Hospice will host its annual Butterfly Luncheon on Tuesday, April 10th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hilton Houston Post Oak Hotel.  Ron Hall, co-author of the book, same kind of different As me, will be the special guest speaker. The Butterfly Luncheon is the primary fundraiser that recognizes Houston Hospice’s pediatrics program called The Butterfly Program. Profits raised from The Butterfly Luncheon benefit all operations of Houston Hospice.

I am very excited about our speaker Ron Hall. His capability to tell a story and paint a mental picture keeps the audience engaged and entertained. If attending our 2012 Butterfly Luncheon, I highly advise reading his book, same kind of different As me, that Ron co-wrote with friend Denver Moore. The story about how the two met is inspiring especially since they both came from two different worlds. The novel proves that when coping with death, we can all find common ground no matter what our backgrounds are.

The event will include lunch and a raffle that will feature our hand stitched quilt sewn by Houston Hospice volunteers. There will also be a booth with sterling silver butterfly jewelry for sale by JD Designs. Copies of same kind of different As me, will be available for purchase. Ron Hall will sign books at the event.

If you are interested in attending our 2012 Butterfly Luncheon, you can visit our website at www.houstonhospice.org or contact the Development Department at 713-677-7130. This is one of our major fundraisers for the year and is always a joy to be a part of.

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Celebrating Valentine’s Day as a Caretaker

Valentine’s Day is a holiday that people love to love or love to hate. Some people love the idea of having a whole day to celebrate their love for their friends, family, and that special someone. Other people believe Valentine’s Day is a made up holiday to generate card, chocolate and flower sales. Whatever your opinion is, as a caretaker acknowledging Valentine’s Day can benefit your loved one.

If you take away all of the commercialization of Valentine’s Day what is left? The answer is simple- love. Dedicating a whole day of love for the people in your life is a great way to realize how valuable they are. As a caretaker, you are already a laborer of love. Balancing work and family is stressful enough. You choose to become a primary caretaker because of your deep love for your family member or friend.

This Valentine’s Day, take some time to think about the love you have for the friend or family member you are taking care of. In the chaos of trying to create a successful balancing act, it’s easy to forget why you are a caretaker. Think about great memories shared between the two of you and talk about them with your sick loved one. You don’t have to buy flowers, chocolates, or cards to celebrate your love for each other.

Also, don’t forget to celebrate the love you have for yourself. Take a moment to think about your characteristics that make you unique and special. When you love yourself you can love others even more. Don’t let yourself forget your worth or that you are a strong, caring person. Give yourself a giant hug and compliment.

Even though Valentine’s Day can seem a little over the top and excessive, don’t forget the message of love. Let others in your life know that you love them even if it’s a simple phone call or letter. And celebrate the love you have for yourself.

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Houston Hospice 2011 Spirit Award Dinner Set for October 26

Kelli and Eddy Blanton

Kelli and Eddy Blanton

Kelli and Eddy Blanton are co-chairs for the upcoming Thirteenth Annual Spirit Award Dinner to be held Wednesday, October 26 at the River Oaks Country Club. The Blantons chair numerous events throughout the year and Houston Hospice is honored to have them lead us to another record breaking fundraising event. This is particularly special because the award is the Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award, named so for Eddy Blanton’s mother.

The Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award was created in 1999. Houston Hospice named the Community Spirit Award in honor and memory of Laura Lee Blanton who dedicated herself to making a difference in the community. The recipient(s) of this award support a wide range of community efforts through their energy, enthusiasm, time and resources. Past recipients are Jack S. Blanton, Janet and Ernie Cockrell, Dr. John P. McGovern, The Honorable and Mrs. James A. Baker, III, Dr. Richard E. Wainerdi, Mary and Tony Gracely, Connie Baird Linbeck, Harriet and Joe Foster, Jes and John Hagale, Margaret R. Caddy and Sarita and Bob Hixon.

This year’s Laura Lee Blanton Community Spirit Award will be presented to Maureen and Jim Hackett. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to present this award to Maureen and Jim, who have not only been friends and supporters of Houston Hospice, but of the entire community,” remarks President & CEO Jim Faucett.

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