Members of the Crowley family promote the Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice, which they support in memory of James Crowley of Malden, MA.
Speaking to my dad, James Crowley, on a Zoom call while he was hospitalized and nearing his final days of life, I couldn’t bear the thought of him dying without having his family by his side.
So many families have had to endure this type of tragedy during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Care Dimensions made it possible for Dad to spend his remaining time with us, at home, as he wanted.
During those last six days of Dad’s life, hospice allowed us to enjoy our time with him and make every moment count. It was a gift, and now we’re giving back by participating in the Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice as the Crowley Clan.
Family man and friend
Dad was a true gentle spirit and friend to all who crossed his path. He worked at Everett Aluminum for 48 years. His dedication and determination in all aspects of his life taught me, my siblings, and the rest of our family to be responsible and not let anyone down.
One day last October, some of his co-workers noticed that his skin and eyes appeared jaundiced. They insisted that he leave work and have it checked out. He was 81 years old and had hardly ever been sick.
Doctors quickly diagnosed Dad with pancreatic cancer, which had spread to his liver and lungs. We were given the grim news that he was expected to live three to six months. It was a shock to the whole family. I remember saying, “We’re going to walk down this path together. Dad has been there for us, so now is our time to give back and support him any way we can.”
Dad chose to undergo outpatient chemotherapy at the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center in Danvers, while he continued to work a few days a week! He believed family health and happiness are the most important parts of life and always made sure our family remained tightknit. Now we were coming together as family and dealing with a traumatic situation where death was staring us in the face.
Dad had setbacks that hospitalized him in December and February. He stopped treatment in late March and had three strokes in April and May – the last one sent him to Massachusetts General Hospital, which referred him to Care Dimensions for hospice.
Hospice care with dignity, respect
Within two hours of Dad returning to his Malden home, the Care Dimensions hospice team had his house set up so everyone could adjust to the situation. They set up a hospital bed and rearranged furniture to accommodate all the staff who would be coming. That first day and the next five days, they paid attention to every detail and calmed everybody’s nerves when they were in the room.
When Care Dimensions staff came into my parents’ house, they told us about the services that were available, what they do, and how they care for not just the patient, but the entire family. They included us in creating Dad’s care plan and asked if we had questions. When they spoke to us, they looked into our eyes and gave as much time as we needed. They were genuine; we felt their caring presence, which helped put us at ease.
The hospice nurse told us, “Give your dad the best possible quality of life and don’t leave anything unsaid.” It was great advice, and during Dad’s final days, he got to spend time with the people who meant the most to him, which would have been impossible in the hospital.
The two aides who cared for my dad – Moses and Isaiah – were tremendous. They treated him with such dignity and respect. They didn’t look at my dad as ill. They saw him as a person. They weren’t afraid to care for him, to talk to him, even though they knew he couldn’t respond. They were amazing and we were all so comfortable with them.
We’re a pretty religious family. Our regular chaplain was ill on Dad’s final day but fortunately, I was able to get another Care Dimensions chaplain on the phone while 17 of us gathered at the house. I asked the chaplain if she could pray for the whole family. She recited an amazing prayer that united our family at that moment. Dad passed not 10 minutes later. We felt that prayer go through every single one of us. It provided an overwhelming feeling of peace and togetherness.
In thinking of the hospice team, the scripture Philippians 4:13 comes to my mind: “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” That is how the team made my entire family feel. The sense of peace and calmness came over us and we were able to face one of the most difficult situations with their help.
Our time to give back
I believe that hospice angels were sent to help my dad pass the way he wanted: at peace and surrounded by his family. I wanted to show my appreciation, so I went on the Care Dimensions website and discovered they were having a virtual Walk for Hospice fundraiser, so I immediately registered.
On June 28, one month after Dad died, my family gathered again in my yard to celebrate my birthday. I told them that I had a speech. I left briefly and returned with a large box. I announced that my birthday wish is for the entire family to participate in the Walk for Hospice. I opened the box and distributed Walk for Hospice T-shirts and hats. We put them on, took pictures and decided that on September 27 – Dad’s birthday – we’re going to do our hospice walk around the cemetery. When finished, we’ll have lunch together under a tent near Dad’s grave, which is just what he would want us to do.
Support the Walk for Hospice – Virtual Edition as we remember our loved ones, celebrate special caregivers and inspire support to ensure care is always available to those in need.
Tell us why you walk by emailing Events@CareDimensions.org.
About the author
Kathy Crowley resides in Saugus, MA.