At the 2018 Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice, members of Team Luca wore their vintage shirts. At this year’s Walk, they’ll wear shirts designed by Madeline Luca's great-granddaughter Paige (left).
Every day, Natalie Luca Fiore would take her 85-year-old mother out and about -- to the grocery store, to get her hair done, just about everywhere.
“She was my co-pilot,” Natalie said. “We were always going, going, going.”
After planning a full day of activities on the phone one night, Natalie ended the conversation with the usual, “See you in the morning.”
But that next morning, she got a call from a caregiver that her mother had suffered a stroke.
“It was very unexpected and knocked me for a loop,” said Natalie. “My whole life changed with that phone call.”
Her mother, Madeline Luca of Beverly, had another stroke a few weeks later. “She told me her life wasn’t going to be the same and she didn’t want to deal with it.”
“I was so overwhelmed with grief,” said Natalie, adding that her father died when she was 11 and she and her mother had a special bond.
Thankful for hospice with Care Dimensions
At Beverly Hospital, a nurse recommended the family talk with Care Dimensions. Thankfully, Natalie said, there was a bed available at its Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers.
“It was such a blessing,” she continued. “She thought I took her on vacation and she was in a hotel room. It was Memorial Day and they rolled her outside, and the rhododendrons were in bloom and the birds were singing. She was so happy. The (hospice staff) was so wonderful to her and to us.”
After 36 hours at the Kaplan House during that May in 2013, Madeline passed away.
“That one day is why I will always do what I can to raise money for Care Dimensions.”
Natalie, 55, of Danvers, is heading Team Luca for the 32nd annual Walk for Hospice on Sunday, Sept. 29. It will be her seventh year participating in the event.
“Different people have walked with me,” she said. “This is my mission for my mother. I plan on walking this until I can’t walk anymore.”
This year, she will be joined at the Walk by her niece and great-niece.
“I actually had three grandparents pass at Kaplan House, so it’s a meaningful place for me,” said Natalie’s niece Erin Volkmann, 42, of Peabody. “My Nana Luca was the first, so we walk in memory of her. She had a very vibrant personality and made friends everywhere she went. She was a tough lady who overcame a lot in her life and loved her family above everything else.
“Kaplan House is such an important place because the people there understand how hard it is when someone is about to pass and they go out of their way to make sure that not only the hospice patient is shown compassion, but the families as well,” Erin said. “It’s such a peaceful, tranquil place. We can’t say enough about the people who work there and how kind they were during such a difficult time.”
The three-mile Walk for Hospice begins at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers and continues through local neighborhoods. “The neighborhood residents are so wonderful and embrace it,” Natalie said. “They sit on their front steps and wave or come out with water. It is very supportive and encouraging.”
After her mother’s death, Natalie also participated in Care Dimensions’ free grief counseling for family members of patients who have died.
She said she’s hopeful the funds raised through the Walk, including the donations her team has received, will help provide those services for many hospice patients and their families, as well as members of the community.
“I want them to have the same blessing we had,” she said.
Learn more about the Care Dimensions Walk for Hospice.
About the author
Wendy Killeen is a freelance writer from West Newbury, MA.