It is a great honor and pleasure to be here with all of you today. Each one of us has experienced the loss of a loved one, and for all of us to gather in one place is a wonderful tribute to the love and connection that humans share.
Over the past 3 years, Hospice Buffalo has been a major part of my life, helping me and my family to get through the loss of both my parents. I’d like to share the story with you and reflect on the difference that Hospice made for us.
In the summer of 2011, my 64 year old mother was diagnosed with cancer for the 6th time in her life. Over her previous thirty years she had successfully beaten 5 various types of cancer. She was the strongest woman I have ever known. But on a day late in the summer of 2011, I found myself sitting in a hospital room with my mom and dad when the oncologist walked in and told us that there was nothing more they could do to extend mom’s life. There was a long pause. Mom and dad and I looked at each other, looked back at the oncologist, and finally one of us asked, “What do we do now?”
The oncologist gently explained the options, and one of those options was to receive Hospice care in mom and dad’s home. This had great appeal to us as we knew mom would be most comfortable at home, but we had apprehensions about our ability to care for her ourselves. We decided to move forward with the Hospice program. Mom spent most of her time in the living room where we put her bed. Nearly every day my wife, our kids, and I would visit and spend time with her and dad. The cat would cuddle at the end of mom’s bed. My children would share their dolls with grandma in her bed. They would tell her stories about their day at school. Dad and I would cook something together in kitchen, and mom would do her best to join us at dinner when she could. Friends and family would come to visit mom and dad often, and we sat together in the comfort of their living room. Hospice nurses and aides came regularly to do all of the difficult things so that our family could spend the quality time with mom. At a moment’s notice, a phone call would bring Hospice to the front door to help with anything that was needed.
As Thanksgiving came and went, mom’s condition grew worse. On December 15, 2011 she passed away. For the next year and half we grew closer to dad than ever before. He did his very best to move forward, and we learned how to move forward with him. And then in early summer of 2013, dad was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. He fought very hard for several months, but it wasn’t enough. On a day in December of 2013, I again found myself sitting in a room with dad when the oncologist came in and told us that there was nothing else they could do to extend dad’s life. But this time it was different. This time there was no long pause. This time we had no apprehensions at all because we knew exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted Hospice!
And so dad now moved in to the living room of his home. However, he lived alone. Mom had transitioned on, and my wife and I lived a couple miles away with our children. But we had no worries because we knew that Hospice would provide all that we needed. We came to the house every day to visit with dad. The cat would cuddle at the end of his bed. My children would share their dolls with grandpa in his bed. They would tell him stories about their day at school. I would cook something in the kitchen, and dad would do his best to join us at dinner when he could. Friends and family would come to visit dad often, and we sat together in the comfort of his living room. Hospice nurses and aides came regularly to do all of the difficult things so that our family could spend the quality time with dad.
Along the line, dad was invited by Hospice to make a film about his Hospice experiences. Dad happily agreed because he was intent on letting people know how much of a difference Hospice had made for our family. The filmed has circulated across the country, and it is wonderful testimony to the care, love and professionalism that Hospice brings to those in need.
On April 15, dad passed away. In all my life I have never known or heard of a person that was able to embrace his death in the complete way that dad did. Not just accept it, but embrace it as though it was a new life. Part of reason was because of his faith in God. Part of it was that he was reuniting with mom. But I have absolutely no doubt that a big part of the reason that dad was able to embrace his death was because he knew, from the experience with mom, that Hospice was there to help us all.
Thank you Hospice for giving our family exactly what we needed. And thank you to all of you here tonight for sharing your love.