Note: This is a guest post from my friend Catherine. She and a group of wonderful people are participating in The Bourbon Chase – a 200 mile relay race across Kentucky bourbon country. They are raising $5,000 for the National Hospice Foundation. As some of you know, I lost my mom too soon in life, and did my half marathon to raise money for Parkinson's Disease research. As I heard the team's personal stories of their experiences with Hospice, I had to share their message here with my generous friends.
Ahem. Well, um hello there. To those of you expecting to read about the many adventures of Skinny Emmie, I apologize for the interruption. To Emily, I send my heartfelt thanks for letting me guest blog about something so very near and dear to me.
First, an introduction. My name is Catherine Hayden and as my Twitter description says, I am a font nerd (graphic designer), wannabe runner (cheaper than therapy, it's true) and mom of 10-year old twin boys (why I need therapy). I am also an only child still grieving the death of my mother last summer.
My mom spent her final days in the gentle hands of Hospice of the Bluegrass here in Lexington. The care and compassion they showed to her, all of us really, are beyond compare. From the beginning to the end she was treated with respect, dignity and kindness even though she knew nothing of it. No one came into her room without first asking if I needed anything. No request went unanswered.
The family across the hall from Mom brought in the cutest bulldog pup to visit their family member. How cool is that? If Mom had been aware at the time, I know she would have loved to see her cat. I could have brought a cat into the hospital. For real. That's just unbelievable. My mom loved that cat. And the cat loved her. Only her. So I wouldn't have brought the cat because I enjoy having skin on my arms, but in theory I COULD have brought the cat to visit.
Hospice's care and outreach didn't end when my mom died either. I'm still struggling with knowing she won't be there when my boys graduate high school or get married. I struggle daily knowing I can't call her on my way home from work like I used to. I can't share the small moments of my day with her. I can't tell her about the things my boys, her only grandchildren, have done – good (getting the most Reading Counts points in the entire school while in the fourth grade) or bad (sticking Legos up his nose, also in the fourth grade). But thanks to the counseling services offered to me, free of charge, by Hospice, I did make it through this year of firsts – first Christmas, first birthday, first Mother's Day without my mom, better than I ever imagined I could in those dark days last summer.
That is why when some friends told me they had formed a charity team for the Bourbon Chase, which will raise $5000 for the National Hospice Foundation I was all in. Run right along some country roads, rather than the bike lanes and sidewalks I'm used to? Sure! Alone? Ok! At night? Sign me up!
If you see me, I'll be the one wearing my “in memory of” shirt and most likely crying when I cross the finish – partly from exhaustion and partly from joy and pride in knowing I am helping give back to those who gave so much to me.
But enough about me. This is a team effort all the way. Here are the rest of the team members and their thoughts about Hospice.
I’m running in memory of my grandmother – Noonie. The care she received through Hospice of the Bluegrass was wonderful. They made her feel at ease and with little pain. Knowing that she died in peace gave us peace. Thank you Hospice of the Bluegrass!
While my family and I have been fortunate in not having to use the National Hospice Foundation's bereavement or end-of-life services, I felt a special pull towards the NHF effort and joining the Bourbon Chase team, because my husband’s grandparents, who I see as my own, use the in-home respite care of the Hospice of the Bluegrass regularly for grandma. The trust that my family has in their work, as well as the organization’s personal and community support, is unmatched.
I have never participated in a relay like the Bourbon Chase before, but a great fundraising goal and an enthusiastic team is all that I need to see this 24-hour race through!
I felt like I knew a lot about Hospice because a friend of mine (team member Amy Brin) works for Hospice and a coworker (team member Catherine Hayden) shared about her mom being in Hospice care last year. However, I had never been in the physical presence of Hospice until one of my best friend's (team member Stephen Barnett) grandmother was moved to the inpatient unit at St. Joseph's Hospital in Lexington. I remember going in, preparing myself for what I was about to see. I mentally prepared myself for sadness and discomfort. What I experienced was the most peaceful, comforting feeling as I saw his grandma, who was kind of like a second grandma to me, resting comfortably in her last days surrounded by family and friends who celebrated her life by being with her as she was dying.
While it was sad saying good-bye, the experience made me think of death in a completely different light. Every person should have that opportunity as they leave this world for the next; no matter what kind of insurance they have or how much money they can spend. It makes me feel good that by running this relay with teammates and friends who have been personally touched by this amazing organization, I can play a small part in helping Hospice provide this dignified, compassionate, and comforting service for everyone's loved ones in the future.
I’m running the Bourbon Chase Relay on behalf of the National Hospice Foundation for my great grandmother Lillie. She was in a hospice care facility most of 2010 and passed away last November. We couldn’t have asked for a better situation for her. The folks at the facility treated her with the utmost respect and listened to our wants and needs. I’m very thankful she was able to spend her last days in such a caring environment.
Hospice brought me back to life. I was so shut down and immune to life after my dad died. A laugh felt foreign. I worried myself when I couldn't get excited about a trip to Hawaii.
My journey with hospice started when I spotted a flyer advertising a bereavement group for young adults who have lost parents. I joined the group the following week, and began to rejoin the living. I began to laugh again.
When I got on the other side of my grief, I felt invincible. I had survived and would continue to survive my greatest fear; being without my father. My invincibility – while insatiable – caused me to think what, if anything, could I fear now. The answer came to me swiftly and immediately – as all truths do – the death of a child. And in that moment, was when I discovered my life's calling – to serve those that know my greatest fear as their own.
Now, as a hospice nurse practitioner, I walk daily with children facing the end of their lives. I get to work alongside families who are faced with the knowledge that they will know life without their child. I am privileged to be flanked with nurses, social workers, nursing assistants and chaplains armed with skill and passion to serve these children and families during the most tender of times. I am now on the hospice side of giving.
My hospice experience has come full circle; for with what I received I am now fortunate to give. It is through this experience that I have learned so many truths; so many about people and life; but even about hospice itself. Hospice – the actual service of hospice – does for everyone what it did for me. It guides one through what one fears; whether the fear is death, disfigurement, loneliness, or the unknown.
Fear, like death, will always be. Hospice, like life, hopes to always be more.
I am running for my aunt Kathy who passed away from lung cancer 2 years ago. By the time we found out she was sick her cancer had spread to her brain and her goal was to make it to her 60th birthday, which was almost a year away at that point. She fought hard to make it to that day and ended up passing away just days after celebrating her birthday. I know without the help of hospice and the exceptional care that she received she wouldn't have been able to see her birthday. I will always be grateful to the hospice team who helped out our family in such a difficult time in our lives.
Our other team members (you'll hear from them later on) are Patrick Barker, Stephen Barnett, Shelley Duncklee, John Dixon, Holly Eubel.
If you would like more information about the Bourbon Chase, please check out their website at http://bourbonchase.com/. There is a great video on there that gives me chills each time I watch it. It's good stuff for sure.
And now, the main reason for this post- the ask. As a charity team, we don't have to pay an entry fee for the race because we agreed to raise $5000 for the National Hospice Foundation. We're off to a good start, but we aren't to our goal just yet. We would be delighted if you would visit our fundraising page at http://www.active.com/donate/runtoremember2011/lwathen1 and make a donation. We promise to do you proud!
If you would like to keep up with us, our training, our many adventures, and even what is happening during the actual race, please check out our blog at http://nickryansridgerunners.wordpress.com/
So, to Emily, thanks again for offering up your space here. To my fellow teammates, run like the wind. To my mom, I'll see you at the finish line.