On this very brisk spring day, I have been looking over some of the copies of the Comforter that have appeared over the past 10 years. And I have to say that I can hardly believe I’ve been here at Hospice of the Panhandle for 10 years. It seems like the blink of an eye!
One story that caught my eye was in the magazine in the spring of 2014, just five years ago. In that article, I mentioned some trees that we had moved from one location on our campus to another. Tall pines, they appeared sturdy enough. However, moving trees can be a dicey proposition. We actually worried at the time that they might not survive the move — even though it was simply from one side of the campus to the other. In 2014, those trees were 12 to 15 feet high. As I look out my window now, these same trees are probably 20 feet tall, maybe even a little taller. What a difference five years makes! Over the course of the last five years, the landscaping on the campus has matured. Smaller trees, once saplings, stand tall, and bloom beautifully each spring. The shrubs, once measuring a few feet high and wide, are much more robust. And our beautiful garden outside the Education Center, cultivated with love by donor Lee Snyder, bursts into vibrant colors each spring.
It’s been quite a five years! At the time of that particular issue, Hospice of the Panhandle’s “new campus” was just two-months-old. Staff at the inpatient facility, which had opened in March 2014, had cared for 30 patients.
Fast forward to 2019, five years since setting foot on this campus. We have now served more than 1,200 patients. When we first opened, and community members would ask about the need for the facility, I would often share not just the numbers, but the stories of patients who spent days — sometimes their last on this earth — there.
In five years, a mom was able to witness her daughter “walk down the aisle” (on one of the outdoor porches) to marry the love of her life. The daughter continues to celebrate her wedding anniversary each year on that day of her outdoor wedding on the porch.
In the chapel, a father watched his son and daughter receive their middle school and high school diplomas. He stood proudly, with the help of staff, while Pomp and Circumstance played and his children walked in, donning their school graduation caps and gowns, while friends and family members looked on.
A local performer, who wanted to give one last concert, sang several Christmas carols in front of a crowd of about 30 staff and volunteers. His nurse helped him “warm up” by providing lemon water, so his voice rang out loud and clear for his audience.
A retired commander at the Air Guard was able to host more than 200 visitors, who shared stories of their times together.
And a couple, married for 70 years, held hands, looked at each other lovingly and whispered their final goodbyes. They passed away within days of each other.
These are only a few of the hundreds of stories that we were able to witness in five years. We also often get to be a part of many rich, wonderful memories of patients and families who are cared for in our home care program — generally more than 1,000 each year.
Here’s to the many, many more years of sharing memories.
Maria Lorensen has been the development director at Hospice of the Panhandle for 10 years. Hospice is a not-for-profit agency that has cared for patients and families with life-limiting illnesses in Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire and Jefferson counties since 1980. For more information on how hospice helps residents of the four-county area live more fully, call 304-264-0406, or visit on-line at www.hospiceotp.org