A tire swing sways in the gentle breeze of an early summer’s evening outside DeGraff. Children frolic in the open yard of the old farmhouse. There are warm brownies and ice cold lemonade on the picnic table. The sounds of laughter, guitar music and singing fill the air. From her usual spot on the front porch, Mama takes it all in with a twinkle in her eye.
Mama is 88-year-old Janice Lockard, who has emphysema and breast cancer. The matriarch of the Lockard family can rattle off the litany of her six children, 18 grandkids, 12 great-grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren.
On this night, her extended family includes staff members from Universal Home Health & Hospice Care. Mama has been with hospice for three months, receiving in-home medical visits and help with her daily routine.
You wouldn’t know Mama is terminally ill. She cracks jokes and is the life of the party. On this night, she’s the reason for the party.
“Mama is the foundation for our family and I think she will continue to be after she is gone,” said Zoe Reynolds, Janice’s daughter. “Her strong character, morals, and values will continue to impact our lives on a daily basis. It may not be a million dollars or a family business. But it will benefit us much more when we’re raising our children and grandchildren. This is her legacy to us.”
Zoe and her siblings say they are able to enjoy the time they have left with Mama because of the support they are receiving from Universal Hospice, a United Way Funded Agency. With a team of physicians, nurses, social workers, clergy, aides, therapists, and volunteers, Universal Hospice works to care for terminally ill patients in their homes so that they can live as fully and comfortably as possible until death. $40,000 of your donor dollars are going to Universal Hospice to assure that no Logan County patient in need of care is refused due to an inability to pay.
Karla Gingerich is the Medical Social Worker assigned to Mama. She often joins Mama on the porch to sit and visit.
“It’s such a privilege to be involved with people’s lives at this juncture when they only have months, days, or even hours left to live,” said Gingerich. “They invite us into their homes and make us a part of their lives, talking about their memories, their regrets. I do a lot of listening.”
“I couldn’t praise them enough,” said Mama. “I haven’t met one that wasn’t most giving and nice. I don’t know what I’d do without them. And it’s not just the medical aspects. They’re very good at listening. They’re just good people. They make you feel good. They are well trained and very, very observant. They all need a raise!”
Gingerich says that part of the role of the Hospice worker is to facilitate conversations about end of life issues within the family so that everyone grasps what is happening . They even assist surviving family members in bereavement after loved ones pass away.
“During a difficult time for my family, they have helped us in handling and understanding both her physical and emotional needs,” said Reynolds. “They don’t mind all of my questions. They answer in layman’s terms that I can understand. The staff genuinely cares about Mama, and that means the world to her children.”
But tonight, it’s a celebration. Terry Robinson, a Spiritual Counselor with Universal Hospice, leads rousing renditions of “You Are My Sunshine” and “Give Me That Old-time Religion” with his guitar. Kids take turns crawling off and on Mama’s lap.
“I think attitude is a lot of it, don’t you?” says Mama with a smile.
“It brightens her day when someone from Hospice comes to visit,” acknowledges Reynolds. “They’ve added so much to her life, even though her life is coming to an end.”
It’s the mission of United Way of Logan County to facilitate successful agency partnerships that enable a safe, healthy, and caring community. More than just a fundraiser, United Way has been a valued community partner since it was established locally in 1954, collaborating with businesses, non-profits, government, and civic organizations to help meet the social service needs of the community.
For more information, visit www.uwlogan.org or call (937) 592-2886.
For more information about Universal Hospice, please visit www.uhcinc.org.