Affirming Dignity

Lisa C. Norton, Communications & Development Manager

June 8, 2022

As a little girl, I loved when my grandma would come visit from New York. I’d wake up on those summer mornings to the sound of my grandmother’s voice; her Long Island accent easily carrying up the stairs as she chatted with my mother. I’d lay in bed listening, enjoying its cadence for a while before heading down to breakfast.

I think that’s how I’ll remember Grandma: loud and colorful, and always ready to bake.

In all my years working at Angela Hospice, I’ve never had a relative in the program until now. For 20 years, I’ve helped to tell the stories of other families, of the devoted volunteers, and dedicated team members. But now, my family has experienced what I’ve heard about all these years: the warmth, compassion, and thoughtfulness of the hospice team; and the peacefulness that permeates our Care Center. I experienced it as soon as I crossed the threshold from my “workplace” to my grandmother’s room.

Grandma faced many health challenges over the years: crippling arthritis, breast cancer, then it seemed dementia was starting to set in. But after she took a spill down a department store escalator, we knew she needed to move to Michigan. For the next 14 years, my mom and Aunt Christine looked after her and coordinated her care. This fall, she began receiving Angela Hospice care.

When we learned she would be able to be admitted to the Care Center as a Medicaid patient just a week before Christmas, my mom called it a “miracle.”

I know that our Care Center exists in thanks to the crucial support of our donors. I also know how rare and important this facility is. But more than ever before, I began to see firsthand what a blessing this place is – not only to my grandmother and our family, but to all those who need a place to go, a place where they can receive the kind of love and care that beautifully honors their humanity.

My grandmother had not always been treated with such dignity. Following the birth of my mother and each of my aunts, she experienced what today we would call recurrent postpartum depression. In the 1950s, this meant she would be sent to a hospital psychiatric unit where electroshock therapy was administered to help her “snap out of it.” When that didn’t
work, her depression lingering on for years, my grandfather divorced her. He took custody of their three oldest daughters while the youngest stayed with my grandmother. Her parents brought her back to New York so they could look after her.

The separation was a trauma that stuck with my grandmother up until her final days. She told me one night in her confusion of Alzheimer’s, “My doctor said I’m having a nervous breakdown, but I don’t think that’s right…They’re trying to take my girls,” she’d repeat, stuck in a loop of painful memories.

It was heartbreaking to hear her recite these tragic episodes from her past, but it was also a privilege to hear her express how much love she had for my mother and my aunts. I felt grateful to be able to share these moments with her, even though she could no longer remember who I was.

I wanted to share my grandma’s story because my family is so very grateful for the care she received – care made possible by the support of the generosity of Angela Hospice’s supporters. But I know there are countless other families who will find themselves in a similar situation, managing care for someone in such a vulnerable state – someone who is precious and deserves to be treated with respect and love. I am deeply grateful that Angela Hospice was able to be there for my grandma. And I pray you will continue to support this mission, so Angela Hospice can be there for other families in their time of need as well.


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