Archive for the ‘Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster’ category

Comfort without being asked

April 19, 2016

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager



I met the sweetest volunteer the other week. He had truly soul-searching eyes and an uncanny ability to know exactly what patients needed from him, including how he could comfort them, without being asked.

His name was Ollie and he was an eight-year old Labradoodle.

National Volunteer Week was last week and HPCCR made special efforts to recognize the amazing men and women who offer their time and love to the individuals (and their families) under our care. But what about the animals who do the same thing for our organization? It’s definitely harder to show our appreciation. But I think they know; they must certainly feel the intense adoration coming their way from everyone who meets them.

Pet therapy dogs are brilliant. Ollie knows the difference between when he can “be a dog” when it’s time to “go to work”. His owner, Robin, in fact uses those very words (“It’s time to go to work, Ollie!”) when she’s ready to load up and head to Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, where you can find them each Wednesday afternoon.


Ollie and his owner, Robin

Robin told me some amazing stories. But one of them really resonated with me and almost brought me to tears. She told me about the time when, after a patient had died, the family (who had particularly loved Ollie) requested that he participate in the ceremonial procession of walking behind the body to the waiting vehicle outside. This family had a long tradition of waving as they said goodbye and they all wanted to wave one last time to their loved one. As the vehicle drove away, all of the family members were waving and crying. Then they turned and looked down (in shock) to see Ollie lift his paw as well. Robin was not surprised. “He totally gets it. You don’t have to say anything.”

Ollie seems to sense when and where the patients need him. He’s been known to jump up on beds but he can also tell when lying on the floor next to them is the best way to offer comfort. He’s always calm, always full of love, and he never fails to bring a smile to at least one face in the room.

I watched Ollie in action that day. We entered the room and, I tell you, the entire mood shifted. Faces lit up, questions were asked about him, and stories were offered up about their own dogs. There was hardly a second when a hand was not on Ollie’s head or stroking his unbelievably soft ears.

And when it was time to go, he knew that too. He moved on to the next room, ready to offer exactly the kind of comfort they needed. Without being asked.

For more information about pet therapy or volunteering with Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, visit our website, or call us at 704.375.0100.



A lovely bench

September 30, 2015

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Kapustin benchA lovely bench sits in the courtyard of Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster honoring the memory of a beloved husband, father, and grandfather. Rafael Kapustin came to the hospice house in September of last year and spent his final days with us, finally free of the pain that had plagued him for so long.

Residents of Miami, Rafael and his wife Sara came to Charlotte so that Rafael could participate in a trial at the Levine Cancer Institute. They chose Charlotte because their son Andrew lives here with his lovely wife and beautiful children, all of whom would be able to visit Rafael and Sara as often as they’d like.

So from April until September 2014, Rafael endured the treatment. He spent quality time with his family and he followed the trial protocol.  He relished in the proximity to loved ones and gave every last family member memories to forever treasure.  More importantly, he was able to achieve an important life goal he had set upon entering treatment: witnessing the bar mitzvahs of his twin grandsons, which he joyfully did just one month before he died.  At the end of September, however, with his pain escalating, he opted for comfort care.  Upon the recommendation of his doctor, he came to Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster.

Rafael spent a restful week there with his family. He had welcome relief from his pain and passed away peacefully after many visits from friends and loved ones. His family was so appreciative of his week there that they purchased a bench in his memory and placed it in the courtyard. Just last week, almost a year exactly after his death, his family gathered once more at Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster for a dedication service. The service was full of wisdom and warmth, qualities that Rafael always embodied and that his family truly cherished.

A lovely bench sits in the courtyard of Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster.  And  thanks to the Kapustin family, it will offer a peaceful and welcoming spot for loved ones for years to come.

For information about making a gift to HPCCR in memory of a loved one, contact our Development department at 704.375.0100.

Light From Within

May 21, 2015

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Jinna's stained glass

“Light from Within” by Janet Blanchard

Sometimes the most dangerous battlefields are the ones in our heads.  Even those of us with the sunniest dispositions get sad occasionally, weighed down by negative thoughts and vicious self-doubt.  Our darkness struggles against our light and if we’re lucky, the light wins.  If we work hard to squash the darkness, the light from within will continue to shine, refusing to be extinguished.  It will peek through all our layers, starting from the absolute core, and illuminate our soul all the way to the outer edge of our skin.  It’s no easy feat to keep that light shining, day in and day out.  Some of us struggle more than others.

Like Jinna.  Jinna had battled depression throughout her seventyish years.  So much so that she and her friend Mimi made a pact: they would check in with each other every day and if one hadn’t heard from the other, a visit would be made to ensure everything was okay.  One morning, Mimi didn’t hear from her friend so she went to Jinna’s house around lunchtime that day.  That’s when Mimi learned that Jinna had lost the battle to depression.  She had extinguished her light.

You may be wondering what this has to do with hospice.  I’ll tell you.  Jinna was a knitter and she had yarn.  Lots of it.  Nineteen trash bags full of yarn, in fact, stashed around her house.  Expensive, indulgent yarn in gorgeous colors from exotic places like Peru, Italy, and Norway.  Yarn made from all kinds of materials like bamboo, silk, cashmere, and wool.  Yarn that would make unbelievable prayer shawls for hospice patients.  At our hospice houses.  You see the connection.

Kathleen Tarr, Prayer Shawl Ministry Coordinator from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte was called and asked if her group would like the yarn.  Kathleen, a weaver herself, immediately accepted and gathered the enormous bounty.  After sorting it by color, she called in her knitters to claim their prizes.  Each took enough yarn to make four to six prayer shawls, somewhere between 2,500 to 10,000 yards of yarn.  They then sold the leftover yarn online, raising a modest amount of money.  But they didn’t know what they would do with the proceeds.

Turns out we had the perfect solution.

When Kathleen met with Jane Mitchell, our chaplain at Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, their talk turned to the small chapel located there.  Kathleen asked Jane how our plans were progressing, knowing our desire to make the multi-faith space calm and inviting.  Jane mentioned that we were still looking for a piece of artwork, a final touch to bring all of those peaceful elements together.

And that’s when all of the pieces fell in place.  Kathleen allotted the money raised from the sale of Jinna’s extra yarn to pay a fantastic artist, Janet Blanchard, to create a piece of artwork for the chapel.  Janet works in stained glass and her creations are simply beautiful.  The only stipulation was that the stained glass piece would be “in memory of Jinna”.  Of course we agreed immediately.  We couldn’t think of a more poignant and meaningful way to recognize the gift that Jinna unknowingly gave us.

We had a dedication ceremony in the chapel this week for the new stained glass panel.  I spent several minutes just staring at the piece.  It is indeed a calming scene, with serene blocks of color swirling and dipping around each other.  But the aspect that stands out the most to me is the sense of security I feel when looking at it.  Maybe because, to me, the swirls of color look like arms bending to cradle a child.  Loving.  Comforting.  Soothing.  And the entire piece is lit from within, creating variations within the deep tones of ambers, purples, reds, and blues.  It’s a perfect match for our chapel, making the space everything we wanted it to be.

It makes me happy to think of this beautiful piece of art living at Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster.  Lit from within, it repels the darkness, something Jinna was ultimately unable to do.  Her internal light has been extinguished, but the glow within this stained glass panel can remain on, keeping Jinna’s memory alive and proving that her struggle was not in vain.  Day in and day out, her soul will peek through the layers of this unique and stunning work of art.

May you rest in peace, Jinna.

Grieve and rejoice!

December 11, 2014

by Ken D. Fuquay, M.A.C.E. / M.Div, Carolina School of Broadcasting

Dolom, by Kyle Rhodes

Dolum, by Kyle Rhodes

Editor’s note: Ken Fuquay spoke at the Light Up A Life gathering at Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster.  Below are his magnificent words.

In this moment–in this very second as these words leave my lips, there are persons who are feeling the full measure of grief.  In this moment, we stand with them, and they stand with us.  They are not alone.  And we are not alone.

Three years ago on Palm Sunday, our family pet of 15 years took its last breath as I held it.  The following Sunday, Easter Sunday, my Mom who had battled multiple myeloma for 11 years, had some sort of mini-stroke.  She fell, broke her wrist, was taken to the Emergency Room, and by 10am on Easter Monday, we found ourselves gathered around her bedside as she was admitted to hospice care in Greensboro, North Carolina.  The following Saturday, while my mother still lay under hospice care, I walked the aisle and graduated with a Masters of Arts in Christian Education from Union Presbyterian Seminary.  My parents, who had supported that endeavor, were unable to witness the graduation.  The following Friday at 6:04am, my Mom breathed her last breath with me holding her hand.  Two days later we celebrated Mother’s Day with my Mother’s body lying in state at the funeral home.  As I wrote in my journal, those three weeks were like the swinging of a pendulum—-I moved from deep sadness to extreme joy, from extreme joy to deep sadness, joy to sadness, sadness to joy.

Last year, a bright young 15-year old artist who attends our church asked me a simple yet poignant question.  He asked, “What is your favorite emotion?”  It was a question I had never been asked.  I engaged the young man in conversation and as we talked, I realized in the depth of my spirit that joy and grief come from the same place inside of us.

I am convinced that without the deepness of our grief, we can never fully understand and appreciate the richness of life.  Without tears, our laughter has no value.  With no struggle there can be no appreciation for freedom.  Without loss there can never truly be any “having.”  And, I am convinced without grief, there can never truly be any joy.

I answered Kyle’s question, “Grief is my favorite emotion.”

A few weeks later, Kyle presented me with a mask that he sculpted.  He named the mask Dolum.  Dolum comes from the latin word “Dolore” which means, “deep sadness, grief.” If you look closely at Dolum, you will see the tears of grief on his face–but don’t stop there–keep looking, you’ll see that those tears have dropped on fertile ground and in that place, new life is springing up.

In the chapel at LDHH at Southminster, there is a journal.  People who wander into the chapel are invited to share their thoughts. I found these words written in that journal:

How badly will this hurt?
How deep will the cut be?
How weighty the grief?
How badly it will hurt is dependent solely on how goodly I have loved;
The cut will be only as deep as the measure of joy I experienced.
And the grief?  Well, while weighty, I am confident that the grief will be in direct proportion to the measure of the life I mourn.  And I would not trade either.

In closing, I give you the gift of these words from White Elk, a Native American sage: “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.  Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice!”

Saints among us

July 10, 2014

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

saints1-400x256Folks, saints walk among us every day in the hospice industry.  Selfless, loving saints.  Everyone involved with a hospice organization, it seems, has responded to an internal calling; has acquiesced to a higher authority and made a conscious decision to give of their truest self.

Our volunteers fall into this category.  They help patients and families because they adamantly care.  They don’t show up because they get paid or because they think they’ll score a job.  Our volunteers understand the life-changing experience that is hospice and they want to be a part of it any way they can.

I have a few very good examples to illustrate my point.

At our hospice house in Huntersville, Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville, we had a young dad (only 40 years old) who was under our care.  He had two young children and wanted to leave memories for them; tangible ways to be a part of their lives since he would not be there to witness them grow up.  Two wonderful and dedicated volunteers helped him 1) record the book “Good Night Moon” so that his children would never forget the sound of his voice, 2) write cards to them so that they would always have him “present” for momentous occasions, and 3) take prints of his hands (and those of his children) so that they could have a framed, visual reminder of his love for them.  These amazing volunteers spent a week helping the father with these small, but incredibly precious tasks.  Their actions soothed the mind and heart of a dying dad.  For the children, however, these irreplaceable mementos will undoubtedly become beloved treasures.

At our hospice house in south Charlotte, Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, we occasionally have volunteers bring dinner for the families and visitors who are keeping vigil over their loved ones under our care.  A few weeks ago, dinner was provided by a young mom of two (with another on the way!) who not only cooked a beautiful meal, but left this note as well:

My name is Jen and I am a 33-year old mother of two little girls, ages 4 and 2 and am also pregnant with a baby boy, who is due in October.  In case you were wondering why I made dinner tonight, I wanted you to know it is truly for one simple reason: because I wanted you to know that someone is worrying and caring for you.

I lost my dad to colorectal cancer six years ago after a long battle.  I know that when you are caring for a loved one who is ill, you have probably spent a lot of time worrying, you’ve likely spoken with countless doctors, and spent a lot of time researching all kinds of things.  I also know that there are a lot of days that caregivers survive on vending machine food, if any food at all.  So for dinner I have made one of my family recipes — we are Italian and this was one of my Dad’s favorites.  Today would have been his 79th birthday, so please enjoy and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to provide you with some food that I hope brings you some physical energy and maybe even some comfort, because again, this was made just for you.

I wish you and your family the best.

See what I’m talking about?  Saints.  Saints who whole-heartedly support the mission of hospice care.  Our volunteers understand what’s important to a patient at end of life.  They also know the heartbreak that loved ones and family members feel when they’re watching someone special slip away to an unknown place.  And rather than just say, “Wow, I’m sad for them”, they ask a completely selfless question which is, “What can I do to help?”

All I can say is that, daily, I am blown away by the stories I hear about volunteers touching the lives of those we serve.  I am profoundly grateful to these saints for heeding that higher call.  They nurture and love to the nth degree.  And, ultimately, they sustain us.

Love letters

May 15, 2014

 by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Love-Letter-HeartWe receive letters almost every day from relatives of patients who were under our care.  The letters are filled with emotion, gratitude, and respect.  Reading them is extremely gratifying for us.  I guess if you think about it, it’s kind of a quid pro quo.  The care that our clinicians offer each patient and each family member is a unique love letter in its own way.  For these individuals to put their thanks on paper is simply a love letter back.  So for today’s post, I’m going to let the letters do the talking.  Here are some of our favorites:

“I don’t know what I would have done without your help.  Losing Frank was like losing half of me.  Your care was indeed palliative and much appreciated by Frank, me, and our families.  How glad we are that there is an organization like hospice that will step in when the end is near and be there for us all in unbelievable love, compassion, and expertise.”

“From answering numerous questions (at all hours of the day) from worried family members, to ensuring Dad had what he needed, the staff at Levine & Dickson Hospice House was there.  EACH and EVERY staff member went above and beyond to provide the type of service any health care system would be proud to be known for.  Thank you.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for keeping us informed.  The best way I can say it is: Thank you for tenderly, sweetly, lovingly, unselfishly taking care of my Dad in his final days of life.”

“I think we have finally figured you out.  You all are actually angels sent down from heaven to ease our suffering and pain. We are truly grateful for each one of you who worked with us.”

“As a former employee and a current volunteer, I am very aware of the great gift that hospices give to patients and families.  Mother’s care team brightened her days and lifted her up in caring and love.  I was always exquisitely happy for their hugs and support.”

“The staff at Levine & Dickson Hospice House are truly great individuals who made the effort to make sure that everyone was comfortable with the decisions in Mom’s final days.”

“Dear Levine & Dickson Hospice House, please accept this donation.  My friends and I made rainbow loom bracelets and sold them in our neighborhood.  My mommy was there in the spring.  You took great care of her.  I will always remember that.”

“You have made the worst news we could have ever gotten so much more tolerable.  Your patience and understanding, the way you all communicated what was to be expected . . . . I can only say I will be forever grateful.”

“It was so helpful to be informed every step of the way what to expect, what was normal, and what we should be doing or not doing.”

“Knowing that the doctors and nurses kept Mom comfortable and as pain-free as possible made her passing more bearable.  What people don’t realize is that the hospice staff also counsel and guide the family.  We are so grateful for all the support!”

“In a time of extreme frustration, fear, and sadness, the hospice team came into our lives and enabled us to give our mother what she wanted — to die peacefully at home.  They came in, assessed the situation, helped us figure out what needed to be done, provided everything we needed, and cared for us so that we could care for our mother.  We are so very grateful to each of you who does this important work.”

We couldn’t have said it better.


Waiting for the milestone

July 8, 2013

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Electronic Communications Manger

Margaret and Mike in July 1938

Margaret and Mike in July 1938

Do you know what was happening in the United States 75 years ago?  Well, it was 1938 and Franklin D. Roosevelt was President.  The Great Depression was still hanging around, and there was massive unrest in Europe due to the rise of the Nazi party in Germany.  And in Staunton, VA, in July of that year, a newly married couple was taking steps to begin their life together. 

Margaret and Mike Moneymaker met the previous year when Mike stopped his car to flirt with an attractive group of young women.  Margaret, in particular, caught his eye.  He started talking and joking with her, trying to impress her and make her laugh.  Margaret, feeling daring, jumped up onto the running board of his car.  And promptly popped his tire.  That must have sealed the deal — they married a year later on July 2. 

Margaret and Mike moved their family (two sons and a daughter) to Charlotte in 1956.  Their youngest son, Bennie, describes his childhood as idyllic.  “The pace was slower.  Mom stayed at home with us kids and Dad went to work.  We didn’t have much, but we never felt like we lacked for anything either.”  He remembers how strong the relationship was between his parents; they were attached at the hip, always together.  They were not overtly affectionate but they were very loving toward each other.  It remains that way today.

The Moneymakers celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary last Tuesday.  Margaret, now 92 years old, is a patient at Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster.  On the morning of her anniversary, she was sitting in the recliner in her room, waiting for her groom to pay a visit.  She greeted Mike as he walked in through the door and he returned her greeting saying, “You’re a doll, just like the day I met you.” 

It’s almost like she was waiting for that important day to arrive.  Because her anniversary was her last lucid day.  That afternoon she got into her bed and her health started to rapidly decline.  The rather elaborate catered anniversary celebration was downgraded to family members sharing cake and memories.  It’s like she held on as long as she could, waiting for that amazing milestone to pass before she could let the illness invading her body take its turn at the controls.

Margaret is still at Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster, surrounded by her husband of 75 years and the three wonderful children that their union produced.  As the spiritual leader of the family, Margaret instilled strong faith in her husband and children and they know that the time will come soon when she will be called “home”.  Meanwhile, they wait and reminisce about simpler times and the long-standing love that sustains them still.

Margaret and Mike, on their 75th wedding anniversary, surrounded by their family.

Margaret and Mike, on their 75th wedding anniversary, surrounded by their family.