A message from Bob Franko, CEO

Dear Friends and Supporters of the VNA Hospice of Northwest Indiana:

Over the last several months we’ve learned of a few prominent Americans who have utilized hospice care; one, who as I write this is still on care in Plains, Georgia—former President Jimmy Carter, and another beloved Jimmy, Jimmy Buffett, who passed in Sag Harbor, New York. In February of this year, the Carter family chose to make the news public that President Carter had started hospice care. Almost immediately the deathwatch started on social media. People sought updates and assumed the silence from the family meant the close vigil was underway and we would soon learn of his death. At the time of this note, it’s been seven months and many of those people scanning for updates have moved on.

Jimmy Buffett chose to take a more private route. After postponing his normally busy summer tour schedule, which loyal “Parrothead” fans attend religiously, he issued a note in late June stating that “growing old isn’t for sissies” and that he had some health issues to address, but he hoped to be back on the road soon. He made a brief unannounced guest appearance at a bandmate’s performance in a small venue in July, but that was last we heard from him until his death on September 1, 2023—news that shocked even many that knew him well. Later, we learned he had an aggressive and rare skin cancer (for more than four years) and that he was under hospice care at the time of his death. His wife, Jane, issued a statement where she praised the care he received from his hospice team, even naming a couple of the caregivers. It was not mentioned how long he had been under care.

Both situations demonstrate the beauty and compassion of hospice care. Last summer I was privileged to be involved in the initiation of hospice of a dear friend in Tennessee, and through that intimate honor I witnessed the “closing of the circle.” In the first few days he received visitors at home who sat bedside and shared stories, laughs and tears. But as the days wore on and his trajectory shortened, the visits were limited and soon it was only his wife, daughter, son and me. And then it was only his family with him as I knew when the circle needed to shrink even more. We were guided by the angels on the hospice team who helped us understand what was happening and empowered us to make the decisions of when to tighten the circle, draw in and just love. Love as a verb. Just be. There were moments of stillness and quiet, others of whispers of love, gratitude, grief, sorrow, permission.

I’m grateful that the Carter Family has had seven months of that. By that I mean while sad, sure, there is also an indescribable peace, a slowness of time, and periods of raw unfiltered emotion and reserves of love that you didn’t know existed before. I hope the Buffett Family had those moments too. Two very public figures that gave so much of themselves to all of us deserved that deeply human, personal time. As do all of our loved ones. I’m particularly inspired by Mrs. Carter, who some time ago founded the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, and who often said that there are only four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.

God bless the Carter and Buffett families, and all of those who are currently on the same journey.

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