By Margaret Cogswell, RN, CHPCA

Theresa Goodman, Hospice Volunteer

I’m writing today to share with you a story of someone who just last year needed hospice care (and who many of you may know).

I’d like to introduce you to Theresa Goodman, hospice volunteer extraordinaire.

Theresa came to hospice volunteering through her experience with her dad when he died at City Hospital in 1986. While hospice was a fledgling program at the time and consisted of just a few volunteers ministering to the dying in the hospital, the care that John witnessed made an impression on him. He said to Theresa, “You could do that.” Within months of his passing, Theresa completed hospice volunteer training as a way to honor her father.

Over the next 34 years, Theresa worked as an organizational support volunteer helping behind the scenes in more ways than can be counted. She volunteered every Tuesday though sometimes “Theresa Tuesday”—as it came to be known—came multiple times a week if a special project or event was happening.

She made thousands of informational folders for patients, delivered medications to patients, organized medical records and so much more. She regularly volunteered for hundreds of hours per year!

In recent years (even after beating a rare form of cancer twice that resulted in her losing her left eye), she could be found at the Hospice office at 10:00 the night before our Light Up A Life ceremony helping to check off each name that was to be put on a luminary to be sure no one had been missed. Then she’d be back early the next morning bundled in hat and gloves to help set out the luminaries.

At the beginning of March last year—just as the COVID pandemic was setting in—Ashley Horst, our staff member with whom Theresa worked most often received a phone call from Theresa. Theresa told her that she’d had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis—a lung disease that causes the lung tissue to become thick and stiff making it very difficult to breathe.

This just didn’t make sense to those of us who knew and loved Theresa. We care for people all of the time with serious lung disease and Theresa hadn’t shown the symptoms that we would expect from someone with an advanced lung illness.

A few weeks later Theresa was back in the hospital when her brother called. Theresa’s options were limited and she had decided that she wanted to come to her home away from home—our hospice campus and inpatient facility—where she could be cared for by her hospice family.

We know how hard it is to decide to have hospice care. We have cared for our own loved ones. Despite how difficult it is, we also know what wonderful care they will receive during their time of need.

Late in the evening on March 23rd, Theresa came to the inpatient facility. She was anxious and struggling to breathe. Within a short time though, Theresa was comfortable and she could rest without gasping for breath.

The next day our staff helped Theresa video chat with her mother and brother. As this was in the early days of the pandemic, they had barely been able to see her when she was in the hospital. The following day they came to visit her.

Theresa passed away peacefully that night. Giving to the end, Theresa donated her body to science so that doctors could learn more about her rare form of cancer.

I share Theresa’s story with you because she was a remarkable woman and to let you know that we are with you during the hard times of caring for your loved ones and making end of life decisions. We’ve made them with our own families, cared for our own loved ones and have grieved together more than once in the last year.

I also challenge you to take a moment to be inspired by Theresa. Whether you make a donation or volunteer with a community organization that reaches out to others, follow her lead and take the opportunity to help your neighbors in need. All nonprofits appreciate the community’s support, thoughts and prayers.

Margaret Cogswell has been leading Hospice of the Panhandle to provide expert, compassionate hospice care to residents of the Eastern Panhandle since 1987.