Planting Joy

Jun 7, 2024

Dana Casadei, Media Relations Specialist

Imagine dozens of begonias, different colors combining together to make a beautiful image in the ground, an entire picture complete in what once simply looked like a typical yard in front of a home.

This was the kind of work that Angela Hospice patient Shirley Refalo-Scalcucci did for years, and she loved every minute of it.

“It was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had in my life,” said Shirley, who was in Angela Hospice care for six months. “We had a good time every day.”

Once she moved into her home, Shirley really began to create spectacular designs, including her first garden, a heavenly place that was full of brightness and color, and dedicated to her daughter, who she lost at a young age.


For Shirley, that first garden she created was her favorite and the one she’s still the proudest of, knowing her daughter was looking down at those flowers, watching over them and her mom.

Shirley’s the first to admit she’s had a hard life, one full of loss and tragedy, and yet, despite all of that, she’s stayed strong, much like a flower that blooms through the storms, rarely dwelling on any storms that crossed her path.

“She’s pretty special and inspiring,” said Liz Lakins, the Angela Hospice social worker who was with Shirley throughout her entire time on hospice.

And Shirley is quite full of gratitude for all she’s gotten to see and do, including those she’s met through Angela Hospice who have provided care for her.

“You guys are the closest thing we have to peace when we’re dying, and that’s very important to have – that peace of knowing that you’re going to get through it, even though it’s the unknown,” Shirley said.

While she doesn’t completely know what the future holds, she does know a few things, like how she wants “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” by The Cowsills (also known as “The Flower Girl”) played at her funeral.

“That’s one of the songs I’m having at my funeral because I want it to be uplifting and not depressing,” Shirley said.

Given Shirley’s history with flowers, she couldn’t have picked anything more fitting.

Her love of gardening goes back to her childhood, growing up with a garden that was full of an abundance of fruits and vegetables. As an adult, she owned her own floral design company for six years, creating breathtaking designs not only for homes in her neighborhood – including her own – but for some local celebrities too, including multiple Detroit Red Wings players.

Just as her career brightened the landscape and lives of so many, the joy that Shirley radiates is evident to the staff at Angela Hospice too, even on the tough days.

Every day Shirley sets a timer and gives herself five minutes to moan and complain, getting it all out. She’s learned to set her own limits and focus on passing goodness along, even in times of sorrow.

“When I’m feeling sorry for myself, I try to do something good for someone to bring them joy and happiness,” she said. “I found out that giving joy and happiness is free, and it is very rewarding to make people smile.”


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