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'Go after it, give all you can' is a great mantra

December 02, 2011|Kate Coleman

"You are going to die."

I began a story with that sentence about a dozen and a half years ago.

It's a pretty good attention-getter, if I do say so myself.

And that was the point.

Dying is not something most of us like to think about. But think about it or not, no matter how skilled we are in the art of denial, death will come — to each of us and to those we love.

So.

What to do, what to do?

Practical strategies include making a will, a living will and having conversations with your doctor, your family and friends so that your end-of-life choices are honored and carried out.

If circumstances provide the opportunity, of course.

We don't always get to choose.

If circumstances do permit, hospice care is an option well worth considering.  

In case you're not sure what it is, here's a definition from the website of Hospice of Washington County: "Hospice is a philosophy of care that is about managing the pain and symptoms of a life-limiting illness so the patient can live out the time left to the fullest extent possible. Hospice is not about giving up, it is about quality."

Hospice is on my mind because I recently attended an event for the local organization. It was billed as "The Gift of Hospice: Making Every Moment Matter" and served to raise funds and awareness as well as to celebrate the idea of hospice and its value in our community.

I was invited by Evelyn Madden, a woman I met through stories I wrote for this newspaper.

The first was a 1998 feature on the New Horizons Band, an ensemble for senior adults. Evelyn thought it "sounded interesting," and although her previous musical experience consisted of having all five of her children go through the band program at South Hagerstown High School, she found her son's alto saxophone and signed up. She's still playing.

To me, Evelyn's New Horizons involvement is an example of her go-after-it-get-and-give-it-all-you-can joyful view of life.

I interviewed her a couple of years later for a story about hospice. Evelyn had followed her husband, Bill, into Hospice of Washington County's cadre of companion volunteers. That was in 1994, and both still are actively involved — each visiting patients and families for a few hours a week.

Evelyn, 83, grew up in Harmony, Pa., a small town about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. In those days, she told me, families cared for their loved ones at home; people died at home. That was the way things were. In today's hustle-bustle, hospice care can help to recreate a bit of that calmer, quieter world. Hospice of Washington County provides care wherever the individual designates home, including a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Death is a part of life. Helping people is part of Evelyn's life.

She also volunteers at the John R. Marsh Cancer Center, raised $800 in Hospice of Washington County's 5K fundraiser in October and, when I talked to her two days before Thanksgiving, was planning to bake three pies, homemade rolls and cake for her son and grandson's close-to-the-holiday birthdays.

Evelyn Madden is a gift of hospice who truly makes every moment matter. 

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