From Beginning to End

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

Watch with Ecclesiastes 3:11 inscribed.He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)

I have often said God is the Orchestrator of my life.  In my mind’s eye, I see His mighty hands gently placing people, situations and circumstances in my life and path.  I have also often said God knows the end from the very beginning and we only get to experience one moment at a time as we step into it.  These concepts and truths have had a profound impact on my life.  Knowing the God of the universe (the very One who created me) holds my future, gives me peace, even in the midst of some of life’s greatest, tumultuous storms.

If you have read my blog posts throughout the years, you have probably captured an inkling that I was an adult college student – trying desperately to earn my degree – working fulltime and attending college fulltime.  The best analogy I can use to describe my experience is that it was like pushing a massive boulder up a mountain with my nose.  It was not fun, and it was not easy.  But I did it!  I made it up that mountain and I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in May.  Hallelujah!  Success!  At least in the fact that I now hold a degree.

So, since May, I have been trying to find my footing.  You know what I mean?  I have been trying to figure out what life looks like on the other side of my proverbial mountain.  Now that I reached the summit and accomplished my goal of graduating, what is next?

Well, at this time, it seems to make sense that I would embark on a career change and pursue a position that aligns with my recently acquired degree, right?  But that means leaving an agency that I love and the people who have become so dear to my heart that they are, in fact, my family.  So, I pondered it.  I prayed hard over it.  I lamented to God, and I literally lost sleep.  But the decision seemed clear, in the end.  I had worked hard for my degree.  I had sacrificed so much to reach that goal.  So, I accepted an offer to interpret for a child in a school system.  This would allow me to continue to work in a service profession and hopefully leave fingerprints on lives and hearts of children, along the way.

With that being said, I need to quote another portion of Ecclesiastes – chapter 3, verse 1, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”  My season as a fulltime employee of Shepherd’s Cove Hospice is drawing to a close, and that truly saddens my heart.  Leaving is bittersweet.  But God has made everything beautiful in His time.  I will forever carry the relationships in my heart I have forged while at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice.  And I will continue to be an advocate of hospice care and a supporter of this agency that has left an indelible imprint on my life.  A part of me will remain tethered here … from my heart to yours.

Redefining Hope

by Vickie S. Watson, Community Relations Specialist

HOPE CompassHere at Shepherd’s Cove Hospice, we come up against a lot of myths.  There are some real doozies out there.  One we hear often is, “Hospice means giving up hope.”  That is a completely understandable myth/misconception because hospice care is directly related to terminal illnesses.  But making a decision for hospice care does not mean you are giving up hope.  Hospice redefines hope and helps patients and their families reclaim the spirit of life.  Hospice care focuses on improving the patient’s quality of life, allowing them to make the most of the time they have remaining.

Hospice helps patients and families find new hope and meaning in their lives as care goals turn from cure to comfort.  Hope, therefore, is discovered in the journey.  It might be redefining your expectations day by day or even moment by moment.  Hope, for a moment, may be seeing a smile, sharing a hug, or hearing “I love you” one last time.

I recently happened upon an article written in the New York Times in 2009 entitled, “Talking Frankly at the End of Life.”  In this article, Dr. Pauline Chen discusses her personal journey through her mother-in-law’s terminal illness.  Throughout this journey, Dr. Chen explored how better end-of-life care doesn’t dash hope but restores it by ensuring the best possible quality of life for the patient.  The article mentions a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined how end-of-life care discussions with terminal patients affected their quality of life and that of their caregivers.  Chen spoke with Dr. Alexi Wright, a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and one of the lead authors of the article, regarding interviews conducted with terminal patients and their caregivers.  Chen stated,

I asked Dr. Wright if telling patients that they were dying might take away hope. “In trying to emphasize only the positive, we can end up with a misguided sense of hope,” Dr. Wright responded. “I think it’s really important to define hope more broadly. Hope is in the life we live, in our families. When I meet patients with incurable cancer, I hope they live as long as they can and with the best quality of life they can have…”

For many terminally ill patients, hope can take on a new meaning, a renewed sense of appreciation of life and its simple pleasures. As hospice patients learn to live with dying, they are given the opportunity to become more fully alive in the present moment – their hope is redefined.  The time the patients and family/caregivers have remaining can be filled with deep love, grace, and a newfound definition of hope.

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.

Thrift “Shoppe-ing”

by Susan Sanders, Community Relations Director

I love Thrift Store shopping. Always have! I’ve been known to get up early on a Saturday morning and hop from yard sale to Thrift Store to yard sale. You never know what is just around the block that you JUST have to have! At one time, I thought, “If I bring home one more Christmas Tree, my husband is going to divorce me.” Then, what do you know, the next Thrift Store would have the most wonderful tree that I could not turn down. He hasn’t left me yet, but I’m still shopping!

I was talking to someone the other day that said they really couldn’t find anything at Thrift Stores. That’s their problem, right there… don’t go Thrift Store shopping to find something in particular, you go Thrift Store shopping to see WHAT you can find. (see the difference?)

Our Thrift Shoppe was just voted BEST Thrift Store and it IS! If you haven’t shopped with us, do so soon (Tuesdays are half price days, but be prepared for a crowd). We appreciate those who donate, and those who shop. They help us continue our business of ministry by generating funds to care for those who need hospice care but have no insurance. Hospice of Marshall County Thrift Shoppe….get a deal, make a difference!

Fun at Our Area Senior Centers

by Vickie Watson, Public Relations Specialist

One of my absolute favorite aspects of my job is visiting with the local Senior Citizens Centers. Every month I visit with seniors in Marshall and Etowah counties just to have some FUN.

There are times we play BINGO, have penny auctions, or sing old familiar hymns, but the point is we have lots of fun no matter what the activity.

Having the opportunity to be among our senior adults is truly a blessing to me. They share stories and life experiences which always turn out to be something that can be applicable to my own life. One lesson I have learned is if you pour into other people’s lives, you will always get something in return.

If you ever have an opportunity to sit down and talk with senior adults from our area – take it. Soak up some of the knowledge they have to offer from their time on this earth. In my opinion, our senior adults are a real treasure.

Heart of Hospice Award

2015 Heart of Hospice Award Recipient

The 2015 Heart of Hospice recipient, Jamie Gore has been referred to as a “quiet GIANT” for HMC for 20 years. “I believe that God directs our paths and as such, I believe it was destined for Hospice of Marshall County’s and Jamie Gore’s paths to cross – not once, not twice but at least in three very distinct situations,” said Rhonda Osborne, HMC CEO, “And, along that path, Jamie chose to give to HMC. Many times fundraising activities for HMC can be FRIEND raising activities. HMC was blessed when a friend was raised with Jamie.”

Gore’s first experience with HMC was in 1995, through the care of his mother in law. Gore always stated that HMC brought dignity, respect and comfort to this special person in his life as the team provided home hospice care.

Then in 2009, the paths crossed once more as HMC provided services to Gore’s uncle. This was his first exposure to Shepherd’s Cove. He quoted his uncle who said that Shepherd’s Cove was “a little bit of heaven on earth” but went on to say the “people at Shepherd’s Cove made all the difference”.

After his experiences with HMC, Gore wanted to give something back to HMC. In 2011 he identified a grant opportunity through his company that would benefit HMC. He sought out Susan Sanders, HMC’s Community Relations Director. Also about that time, Susan was coordinating a fundraiser for HMC – a yard sale, which was the foundation and the beginning of the HMC Thrift Shoppe. Gore wanted to volunteer and give back more to HMC for at least two reasons. One – he expressed his appreciation of HMC’s services to his family on the two different occasions; Secondly – a requirement of the grant was volunteerism. So what better way to kill 2 birds with 1 stone?   Together, Gore and Susan were able to produce a 2-minute video sharing the merits of HMC and why he chose HMC as his charity of choice for giving not only of his monetary donations but of his valuable time.

And finally, our paths crossed at one of Gore’s largest intersections of his life. In 2014, he honored HMC in the most intimate way. He entrusted HMC with the end of life care for his precious wife. Because Gore and his wife had touched many in the community, their experience was yet another venue where he advocated and raised awareness on HMC’s behalf.

Gore has been one of HMC’s biggest advocates for many years. He supports our events and more importantly, supports our mission through his service, his testimony and his example. He wants no recognition for his service to HMC but we would be remiss not to acknowledge and thank him for his many acts of kindness towards HMC. One of the most powerful statements Gore made about HMC was in the 2011 video. He stated that Hospice of Marshall County “makes the unbearable bearable; the ugly beautiful and is the light of hope in the darkest of times”.

Jamie Gore makes a difference for HMC. He speaks and shares from the heart in a way that inspires others to get involved with Hospice of Marshall County. He is more than a supporter, he is passionate and cares deeply for our mission—he is our friend and the HEART of Hospice!

Upon receipt of the award, Gore stated, “It is such an honor. It just blows me away. I’m very humbled.”

Read the story from the Sand Mountain Reporter.


HMC Receives Grief Reach Grant

by Susan Sanders, Community Relations Director

We hear so many bad things in the news these days it causes us to think, “What is the world is this world coming to…”  Just when I’m tempted to concentrate on this depressing thought, I am reminded of the generosity of good folks and large corporations that see a need and put the dollars behind helping to meet that need.  The New York Life Foundation’s grant to Hospice of Marshall is an awesome testimony to a nationwide company reaching out to local communities to ensure that a vulnerable population receives the care they so need and deserve.  Our society as a whole will benefit from a future generation who have been given the tools to work through grief issues.  I am forever grateful!

Volunteers Make A Difference

by Vickie Watson, Public Relations Specialist

I had the distinct honor of sitting in on an interview with the Sand Mountain Reporter of one of our faithful volunteers, Shirley Lybrand.

I have known Shirley for several years, but my experience with her was always her willingness to help fold the 2,000+ quarterly newsletters HMC published. She always had such a cheerful disposition and would bring a smile to my face at every encounter. But, as I listened to her stories (and her heart) about serving patients and families, I developed a whole new form of respect for this wonderful lady.

You see, Shirley had been served by HMC during the illness of both her mother and mother-in-law. After some time had passed in her bereavement, she decided she wanted to give something back, not only to HMC, but to others with similar experiences with terminal illness.

Shirley loves people. She loves to serve others. Her favorite part of volunteering is simply having an opportunity to be with patients and their families. For more details about Lybrand’s story and experiences, read the article, “Giving the gift of time: Hospice volunteer cites precious memories during National Volunteer Week” published by the Sand Mountain Reporter.