Tempest Tossed

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

Recently, I ran upon an a-l-m-o-s-t insurmountable obstacle in my path.  I say almost, because when I thought all hope was lost, when I thought it was impossible and I would never find my way through – God showed up, BIG!  Someday I will have the time to sit down and write my entire testimony of how God orchestrated my life in phenomenal ways.  But for today, I want to talk about the lyrics of a song that were dropped into my spirit. “When upon life billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost.  Count your many blessings every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.”

Do you recognize these words from an old familiar hymn?  Yes, they are indeed from the song, “Count Your Blessings” penned by Johnson Oatman, Jr.  The words to this hymn began to flow from my heart as I realized exactly what God had done for me.  Even though everything in my life did not work out according to my plan, and my timeline, it worked out according to His in order that He would be glorified.  And trust me, I give Him all honor, glory and praise for the miracle He performed on my obstacle – which, by the way, was not even as large as a grain of sand to Him.

And, if you have read very many of my blog posts, you know how events that happen in my own life often cause me to turn my thoughts to the patients and families we serve.  So, as I looked at the remaining lyrics for this old hymn, what I found was a story of pain, conflict, and confusion that turned into a song of praise and thanksgiving to our Lord.

In the last verse of the song, Oatman penned these words, “So amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all; count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”  THAT!  That is the part that struck me, in the very core of my heart for our patients and their loved ones.  I believe there are angels that attend to our care.  I believe they comfort us to our journey’s end.  And sometimes, our patients and their caregivers even refer to our staff as “angels on earth.”  WOW!  What a compliment.  We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of God.  We have the opportunity to serve patients in their most intimate moments – often even in their last breath.  In that, I find great comfort because I know our heart is one of service.  What a privilege and honor it is to be entrusted with the care of those who are precious and beloved – to care for someone else’s blessing, which in turn becomes a blessing for us.

If you thought you were dying, what would matter most?

Shepherd’s Cove Hospice will be hosting free screenings of the PBS program “Being Mortal” on March 22 at 11:30 a.m. in our community room (located at 408 Martling Road in Albertville) and on March 29 at 11:30 a.m. at the Gadsden Senior Center (located at 623 Broad Street in Gadsden).  This film offers an opportunity for us, as a community, to explore the question, “Have you and your family had the tough conversations and planned ahead?”

In “Being Mortal,” FRONTLINE follows renowned New Yorker writer and Boston surgeon Atul Gawande as he explores the relationships doctors have with patients who are near the end of life.  In conjunction with Gawande’s new book, Being Mortal, the film investigates the practice of caring for the dying and delves into the hopes of patients and families facing terminal illness. In the film, Dr. Atul Gawande shares stories from the people and families he encounters.

When Dr. Gawande’s own father gets cancer, his search for answers about how to best care for the dying becomes a personal quest.  The documentary tells his story, as he is learning to think about death and dying in the context of being a healer. By sharing stories from the perspective of both physicians and the people and families he encounters, including his own, the documentary sheds new light on how our system – so often focused on a cure – neglects the important conversations that need to happen so that a person’s true priorities can be known and honored at the end.

The Hospice Foundation of America stated, “The stories in Being Mortal show us the value of shared decision making in medicine at the end of life and illustrate the importance of thinking and planning ahead as we reflect on what matters to us most. The stories further reveal the human side of physicians, whose own vulnerabilities, fears and lack of training may impede timely and open discussions with patients.”

After the screening, you will have an opportunity to participate in a guided conversation on how to take concrete steps to identify and communicate wishes about end-of-life goals and preferences. Lunch will be provided for the first 50 people to register, courtesy of sponsor Howard Bentley.  Members of the Shepherd’s Cove Hospice Planned Giving Council will also be on hand until 3:30 that afternoon for one-on-one consultations.

See this moving documentary, join the conversation, and explore what matters to you. RSVP by contacting Malarie Allen at 256-891-7724 or gro.e1490428232vocsd1490428232rehpe1490428232hs@ne1490428232llam1490428232.

All are welcome. We hope to see you there!

The Race of a Lifetime

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

As I ponder the whirlwind of activities that surround our upcoming Race to Remember this Saturday, March 4, my mind turns to the patients and families we serve.  They are the very reason for our Race to Remember.  They are the reason many people run.

In Hebrews 12:1, scripture says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  My take on that excerpt of scripture is not an actual physical race, but rather our race – our life – the race of a lifetime.  And that is why our Race to Remember was launched twelve years ago.  It is to help people finish the race of their lifetime.  It is so we can journey with people as they come to the finish line – and so they can finish well, with peace, comfort and dignity.  It is also so we can companion the families and caregivers along the journey and even after their loved one passes as they navigate their grief.  You see, the Race to Remember has a far more profound meaning than a 10K, 5K or 1 mile fun run.  Every step that is taken, every time a foot hits the pavement during those routes, it is making a difference in our ability to serve patients and families.  YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE in someone’s race of a lifetime!!

So, I will leave you with a final quote from scripture.  I Corinthians 9:24 says, “Run in such a way that you may win.”  In this case, winning is not beating the other runners. The prize is becoming a champion for our patients and their families.  If you do that…you are always a winner in our eyes.

What Does a Bucket List and a Bridge Have in Common?

Rhonda Osborne, CEO, gave us a glimpse into a precious moment with her mother, who is being served by SCH. Below, in her own words, she shares a story about her mother’s bucket list experience.

“So what does a bucket list and a bridge have in common? As many of you know my mom is slowly declining in health (in fact we think she has 9 lives; she is tough as many of her generation) and is a home care patient of Shepherd’s Cove Hospice. Over the weeks mom and I have had some enlightening conversations … Like she is not afraid to die, ‘every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before,’ the love for her family and on and on. She let me know there were important events she wanted to see. One was the birth of her great granddaughter (the first girl in the family in 26 years), she thinks age 90 would be a ‘good time to go’ (her birthday is 3/28), and she wanted to see the new Red Mill Bridge as she never thought it would happen in her life time. Our family traveled over Red Mill double bridges typically 6 out of 7 days a week between school, mom going to work at BRYANT Furniture Mfg., and ‘going to town’ on Saturday.

Well, Cecily Kaye was born in October and mom saw and held her Thanksgiving and Christmas. With the help of SCH Social Worker, Ashley Priest, MMC EMS, Chris Keef and Chris Brock, and Asbury Fire and Rescue, Bryan and Kimberly Baker, yesterday mom saw the bridge, up close and personal! Mom is bed confined so seeing the bridge wouldn’t happen without an ambulance and this was not considered an emergency. But thankfully the Lord held off emergencies so MMC could take mom to see and drive over the bridge!!! Bryan and Kimberly blocked off traffic so they stopped on the bridge so she could get a view from the bridge.

Thank you to all involved! She was exhausted on her return home but it was a ‘good tired.’ Two out of three on ‘the list’ done… Now, the Lord has her birthday in His control.”


A New Year

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

Around this time of year, many of us become reflective.  We ponder all that has transpired during the past year and consider all the upcoming year will hold.

As I thought about embarking on the New Year, I contemplated all of the opportunities that could lie ahead.   Of course my mind turned to a quote by Edith Lovejoy Pierce, “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”  As we step out of 2016 and into 2017 this weekend, we begin a new chapter in our lives.  A chapter that could contain a plethora of opportunities.  Imagine what good could come of this New Year.  Imagine what your story will look like at the end of 2017!

For Hospice of Marshall County-Shepherd’s Cove (Shepherd’s Cove Hospice), 2017 will be a milestone year.  Shepherd’s Cove Hospice will be turning the page to enter into 35 years of service!  Imagine that!  As we ring in the New Year, we will be celebrating longevity and the continued opportunity to serve patients and families in our community (which consists of nine counties).  When an agency has been around for 35 years, it means something.  It has significance.

As an employee of Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, 35 years of service speaks volumes to me.  It seems everywhere I go, I hear words of kindness, encouragement, and thanksgiving on behalf of families Shepherd’s Cove Hospice has served.  I am always so proud to know that we, as staff members, have the capacity and distinct honor of touching lives and leaving fingerprints on hearts.  It means something…

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!  May the coming year be overflowing with blessings!


Sometimes God Just Drops Them in Your Lap

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

I sat on the floor in our parlor last week engaged in a conversation that started with a question about our quarterly newsletter mailing list.  However, a rather precious story began to unfold from a lady that inspired me to be a better person.

This lady had come by Shepherd’s Cove Hospice to make a donation – something she always does this time of year – and to make an inquiry for her son about our mailing list.  I had been called down to the lobby to respond to her question about the mailing list.  I answered her query, and assured her that her son would be added to the list for the next quarterly newsletter.  Afterwards, she asked me about the possibility of providing hospice services to a friend who was recently diagnosed with inoperable cancer, explaining, of course, it was not her decision, but she hoped either her friend or his sister would request our services.

During our discussion, this precious lady began to reveal how she had met this particular “friend.”  As it turns out, she had gotten wind that someone in her community was in need of lift chair.  She has quite the servant’s heart, so she set out to find one for someone she had never met – just because a need had been identified.  As it turns out, she found one at our Thrift Shoppe.  She took the chair over to deliver it, and felt led, immediately, to befriend this man.  She has since taken on the task of assisting with grocery shopping, cooking meals, laundry and various other functions.  She said the man once said to her, “You did not know me before you brought that chair.  Why are you helping me?”  Her prompt reply was, “It is just the right thing to do.”

But the story does not end there.  This lady went on to tell me she recently discovered, through her church, a couple who had fallen on some hard times – and so, each week, she makes rounds at area grocery stores and purchases items to deliver to their home.

I was in awe!  I was taken aback by the beauty of this lady’s heart – by her selfless attitude – by her giving spirit.  She said someone once asked her why she did not try to “find another husband” after her beloved passed-away.  She said, with a broad smile, “I told them I had plenty of people to take care of, and plenty of things to do.  I don’t have to go ‘look’ for someone to care for.  God just drops them in my lap.”  Her words fell on my heart and resonated in my mind.  What if we all had this same attitude?  What if we saw, or heard of, a need and just set out to attend to it?  That lady earned my utmost respect and admiration that day.  She will never know the impact her stories made on me.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems … You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  I pray his words take root in our hearts and produce “fruit” in our lives.  I hope the next time God drops someone in our lap, we complete acts of love similar to those of my newfound friend – the lady in the parlor.

Being Home for the Holidays Brings Hope

Hope can take on many forms. For some, it’s finding joy after loss or peace in the face of fear. For others, it’s the possibility of a bright future or comfort at the end of life.  For many, it’s being home, especially during the holiday season.

ag-blog-rhettnb04This Thanksgiving was special for me. I hope it was for you! I just hosted my family for Thanksgiving for the first time, however, our home has been the gathering place for my family for decades! I know…that doesn’t seem to make sense, right? But you see, my husband and I (along with our two boys) moved into my grandmother’s house this summer. My grandmother was an amazing cook, an even better story-teller and a gifted hostess. She was a loyal friend, a spirited Christian woman with a heart of absolute gold. She loved fiercely and lived fully. She was the centerpiece of our family, and she is missed terribly. This was our 2nd Thanksgiving without her, and her absence still looms large. Like many who have experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays are a difficult time for me. This one is special, as I feel my Granny’s presence in a different way this year. I tell you this to explain that HOME MATTERS, not just at the holidays, but being HOME brings peace and comfort to many, especially at the end of life.

A Gallup poll reveals that close to nine in ten adults (88%) would prefer to die in their homes, free of pain, surrounded by family and loved ones: Hospice works to make this happen. I experienced that first-hand with my Granny. I had to BEG her to go to the hospital when she was so sick with COPD that she only had days to live. She made me promise her that she would come home. She wanted to be home for those final hours. Hospice of Marshall County-Shepherd’s Cove worked very hard to make that happen for her and for my family. I am so thankful Shepherd’s Cove Hospice allowed me to keep my promise. I am forever grateful, and I want to be sure everyone knows how to get the help that they need. That help brought me great hope during a very painful time.

You can become the face of hope for others dealing with end-of-life issues with your gift to the Hospice of Marshall County Foundation. The impact of your gift is immeasurable. Your generosity could help a patient with a terminal illness find a measure of physical comfort and spiritual peace. It could literally help a patient go home for the holidays one last time, or live this holiday season comfortably in their home (or in ours– the home-like environment of Shepherd’s Cove).

On this special Giving Tuesday, will you give hope?


Make a Contribution

Thanksgiving Dinner – What a blessing!

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

I remember when I was growing up, our holidays were filled with large family gatherings, more food than anyone could imagine, and lots of stories and laughter.  I remember those times fondly.  They are cherished moments – captured in time – but now a distance memory.

When my children were little, we always had to attend Thanksgiving gatherings for two sides of the family.  We could easily relate to that “stuffed” turkey before the day was over.  Whew!  But those gatherings created more fond memories – moments I hope my children will cherish as much as I do.

However, we all know, as our children grow up and move forward in their independence with their own families or other busyness of life, we do not always have the opportunity to have the entire family gathered around a table for Thanksgiving dinner.  There may be some who even have a mother, father, sister, brother, spouse or child currently serving in the military and unable to take leave to come home.  There are a multitude of reasons, sometimes, why families cannot be together for the holidays.  Whatever the reason, I know those families are all together in their hearts.

This weekend, I sat and pondered this upcoming holiday of “thankfulness,” as I prepare to make a trip to see some (not all) of my children and my grandson.  I am so thankful to have an opportunity to spend treasured time with my biggest blessing – my family.  But I am also saddened, at the same time, that I cannot have all of my children together for a Thanksgiving meal.

And, if you have read many of my previous blog posts, you know how my mind works.  One thought produces another thought, and then another, which usually lands on something related to work.  Some might wonder why that happens.  The only explanation I have is that I am a part of an agency that touches the lives of people every single day.  And they, in turn, touch our hearts.  So, you won’t be surprised to know that my thoughts turned to a story about a family who gathered in our dining room in Shepherd’s Cove a couple of years ago for a family Thanksgiving dinner.

This family, who had a loved one in Shepherd’s Cove, said they had not all been together for a Thanksgiving meal in over five years.  But on that Thanksgiving Day, their entire family gathered together and used the dining room to prepare a feast.  They were able to eat their fill, share stories, laugh…and cry…but they were together.  That is what was important in that moment.  You see, this family knew the significance of counting their blessings and living in the moment – that moment at that dinner table in that dining room – because sometimes all we have left are the moments.

As Thanksgiving approaches this week, let’s remember to count our blessings (and yes, name them one-by-one).  But more importantly, let’s live in the moment.  Savor it…cherish it!

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our Thanksgiving.” – W. T. Purkiser

What’s in a Name?

by Rhonda Osborne, CEO

The Board of Directors, at the suggestion of Hospice of Marshall County-Shepherd’s Cove’s leadership team, has voted to conduct research, evaluate, and change the name for this agency.  You may be wondering why we would want to change the name.   The simple answer to that question is the agency has outgrown our name.  When Gayle Roadruck worked diligently to establish a county-based non-profit hospice agency in 1982, the name Hospice of Marshall County (HMC), described this agency perfectly.  It was a hospice provider to serve the residents of Marshall County.  And the name implied a non-profit agency because ALL hospice providers, at that time, were non-profit.  However, by 1990, residents of DeKalb and Etowah County were requesting the services of Hospice of Marshall County.   In 2007, Shepherd’s Cove (SC), our 10-bed inpatient facility, broadened our name and in many ways complicated our name.  And, our state designated service area includes not just Marshall County, but eight other counties.  Those eight additional counties are Etowah, DeKalb, Jackson, Madison, Morgan, Cullman, Blount, and St. Clair.

As Shepherd’s Cove Hospice ventured into our Vision 2020 capital campaign, there were many interviews conducted with community persons in most of the counties we serve.  Most did not realize we served residents of those eight counties because our name is Hospice of Marshall County.  The bottom line is our name has now become a barrier to accessing our exceptional kind of care.

On the pro side of our name, it carries with it a positive reputation.  Our team has worked hard for 34 years to provide an exceptional quality of hospice care.  That is the reason we serve in nine counties – people have heard about us and have requested our services.

So, we are currently engaged with a company who has successfully led other companies through a name change process.  We wanted you to know about this in advance so when a name change is announced, you will know it is not because we changed ownership.  It is simply because we want to reduce any barriers, real or perceived, for people to receive our care.  We believe our team is different.  We believe in serving with a servant’s heart.  We believe our service and care is of great value.  We want to provide that care to all within those nine counties who want and need our care.  Ultimately, we believe this leads to growth and greater sustainability, as well as a stronger financial foundation.  We would love to invest in the communities of those we serve with even more service.  That also requires a firm financial foundation.

Many of you are familiar with William Shakespeare’s quote from Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!”   We know the name Hospice of Marshall County can be sweet to those we serve.  However, another name will not change the sweetness of our level of commitment and service.

We will keep you, our trusted supporters, abreast of this significant name change process.

Living for the Moments…99 Years in the Making

By Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

One of my responsibilities for Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is to manage our social media.  When I arrived at work on Monday morning, I had a notification where Shepherd’s Cove Hospice had been tagged in a Facebook post of a precious lady who had celebrated her 99th birthday with her family in Shepherd’s Cove over the weekend.

I looked at that photo with a smile, beaming from ear to ear, knowing this family had an opportunity to share in this momentous occasion, here in our inpatient facility.  I often say we are leaving fingerprints on the hearts and lives of the patients and families we serve.  Sometimes, however, I fail to mention how much they leave a fingerprint on our hearts and lives as well.

After reviewing the photo (below) of this sweet lady in her birthday tiara, accompanied by her beautiful family and an exquisite birthday cake, I began making some inquiries. Did any of our staff attend?  Did anyone else have photos?  Then I began to contemplate the event … I wonder what kind of stories the family might share about someone who is 99 years “young.”… I wonder… I just wonder.…

After communication with some of our staff, one of the unit secretaries in Shepherd’s Cove, Ellen Allison, called to let me know she was friends with the family.  So, I began asking Ellen a slew of questions. Were you at the party? Did you take any pictures? And more importantly, do you think the family would be willing to meet with me and share their story?

Ellen became the bridge-builder for a chat with the family that made my heart smile.  This kind and gracious family allowed me to enter into an intimate moment of time with their mother, in her room in Shepherd’s Cove, to share about moments in the life of this amazing 99-year-old lady.

Nelda Pounds, who hails from Joppa, Alabama, is a strong, independent lady.  She had grown up in a large family and learned, at an early age, about picking cotton with her father.  I would venture to say that is where she contrived her favorite quote, “Hard work never killed anyone.”  This quote seemed to be her mantra throughout her life.  It appears she was never afraid of hard work, from picking cotton to chopping wood.

Pounds loves sewing her own clothes, quilting, crocheting, “talking politics,” and gardening.  I also understand she was quite the dancer, back in her younger days, and could wipe up the dancefloor with those arms and legs swinging to the Charleston.  Pounds is also a great lover of bluegrass music.  I understand she and her dearly departed husband spent many hours at bluegrass festivals soaking up every drop they could of the music that put a song in their heart and a tap in their feet.

Pounds is also a lover of people and loves making new friends.  She was recently overheard having a conversation with a new resident at the assisted living facility where she resided.  Somehow the subject had turned to the topic of men.  Pounds, 98 years old at the time, said, “I’m through with men!”  This brought on roars of laughter from her family, especially since Pounds had been happily married for 67+ years before her husband passed away in 2002.  It seems to me Nelda Pounds has lived quite a full life in her 99 years.  Each of these precious moments and amazing stories has created quite a legacy for her children, grandchildren and generations to come.  I, for one, am happy to have had a tiny glimpse into her moments.

Pictured, left to right: Steve Pounds, Susan Pounds, Bonnie Phillips, Martha Pounds, Jessicah Pounds, Joel Pounds, and front and center, our birthday girl, Nelda Pounds.
Pictured, left to right: Steve Pounds, Susan Pounds, Bonnie Phillips, Martha Pounds, Jessicah Pounds, Joel Pounds, and front and center, our birthday girl, Nelda Pounds.