Lynn Riggs, a lifelong educator and musician, helped found a preschool and kindergarten and led voice and handbell choirs. She got to know her future husband, Lee, while playing in the high school band in Connecticut. They were married in 1971 and embarked on their life together, she with a degree in music education from Boston University and Lee with his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Andover Newton Theological School.
Lee and Lynn had two daughters, Rebecca and Christina, and five grandchildren. After Lee retired from his pastoral work in 2009, they turned to activities that gave them the most pleasure, so immediately moved to North Myrtle Beach, S.C., to enjoy long walks and bodysurfing in the coastal waters.
In 2016 Lynn was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), which gradually causes physical and mental decline. In 2020, the couple moved to Natick to live with Christina to be close to family and the PSP Clinic at Mass General Hospital.
By May 2021, Lynn’s symptoms were progressing rapidly. “I didn’t know how much more medical care she would need, but I knew it was time to call Care Dimensions,” Lee says. “I wanted her team to get to know Lynn while she was still active and mentally aware. They supported Lynn, but they also supported me as her caregiver. The team described their approach and kept notes on what we wanted. They helped us to recognize the signs of Lynn’s final decline and counseled us on her continuing care.”
Lee says the support from the entire hospice team helped his family manage the final stages of Lynn’s disease and create a natural, positive experience. He credits chaplain Michael Millman for “asking the right questions for answers everybody wanted to hear” to help Lynn and the family discuss difficult topics. Music therapist Katie Bagley shared the creation of music that Lynn loved so much. “Katie would simply start playing her guitar and talk to Lynn about their shared love of music.,” Lee says. “When my daughter, Rebecca, visited from Turkey, they sang together to Lynn, who had lost the strength of her own voice. Katie also showed my granddaughter how to play the Thai bowls for her grandmother. On our invitation, Katie sang at Lynn’s memorial service, two meaningful songs she had sung often for Lynn, ‘On Eagle’s Wings’ and ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’”
He calls social worker Lisa Bradley, “a sweet spirit who connected with my family on multiple levels of spirituality.” Working with families, Lisa asks questions that lead them into their life review. “When Lee walked into the room Lynn would still glow like it was the first time she’d seen him,” Lisa says. “They were still so much in love and an incredibly one-of-a-kind, beautiful couple. They were both so spiritual, so it was easy to connect with them. I always tried to visit Lynn and Lee at the end of my day because I wanted to finish it on a high note.”
On December 30, 2021, Lynn died peacefully at home, with her family and her hospice team surrounding her. “From all my experience as a pastor, working with patients in hospice, then supporting my wife during her hospice care, I’m convinced it’s better to ask for help sooner rather than later,” Lee says. “The support is there if you ask for it and it can make a tough time so much easier.”
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Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore, has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.