The anonymous quote, “When someone you love becomes a memory, the
memory becomes a treasure,” aptly describes the sentiment behind
the 25-year tradition of the
North Oaks Hospice Memory Tree.
Located in the lobby of the E. Brent Dufreche Conference Center on the
North Oaks Medical Center campus, the tree’s branches cradled a very special assortment of
unique Christmas ornaments. From year to year, these ornaments celebrate
the lives of former Hospice patients who passed away due to life-limiting
illnesses and medical conditions. The tree and related gathering held
Dec. 7 are components of Hospice’s bereavement program for patients’
family and caregivers. Bereavement services are provided for one year
following each Hospice patient’s passing.
A miniature red drum set, emblazoned with the initials, “WAM,”
and a vintage, purple Louisiana State University (LSU) truck hauling a
snow-covered tree were among the ornaments added to the collection this year.
On Dec. 7, Virginia Maranto of Runnelstown, Mississippi, traveled back
to Hammond for the Hospice Memory Tree Gathering to hang the drum set
on the tree for her late husband Wayne Maranto. He was an accomplished
musician who passed away at the age of 71 in May 2017 from complications
following a series of strokes.
She purchased the ornament from a nonprofit organization from which a portion
of proceeds will provide food to homeless animals – a cause near
and dear to both her and her late husband.
The Marantos met on an online Christian dating site and married Dec. 20,
2013. A second marriage for her and third for him, they enjoyed dancing
at Mardi Gras balls and going to Wayne’s gigs on the New Orleans
music scene together.
In early 2017, the couple enlisted Hospice’s help to enable Wayne
to remain in his Hammond home with Virginia and their beloved dogs following
a massive stroke that left him partially paralyzed.
With Wayne’s dancing days behind him, the couple turned to another
favorite pastime on his good days with Hospice’s blessing -- “country
driving” to explore the highways and bi-ways surrounding their Northshore home.
“We always let Hospice know we were going out, and we would just
point the nose of the car in a given direction and go,” Virginia
On Valentine’s Day, special memories were preserved when a photographer
friend came over to take photographs of them dressed in their Mardi Gras
finery – a tuxedo for Wayne and a ballgown for Virginia. Following
another stroke around Mother’s Day, Wayne’s health rapidly
declined culminating in his passing May 22. Through it all, Virginia shares
that the Hospice team’s support was a blessing to her husband.
“No matter the time of day, they were always available to help keep
Wayne as comfortable as possible, answer questions and provide emotional
and respite support to me,” Virginia explains. “In my heart
of hearts, I know that Hospice gave us more time together than we would
have had if we had taken a different route when we received Wayne’s
prognosis. They were with us until the end. I will always be grateful.”
For Gobel Lynn of Hammond, the decision to use North Oaks Hospice meant
leaning on an organization that he considered to be his second family.
He worked with the agency first as a volunteer and then as an employed
social worker for 14 years.
Mollie Lynn is his wife of nearly 50 years (pictured at right), with whom
he has two adult children, Pam (pictured at left) and Jeff.
She notes, “He really had a passion for it. It was fulfillment for
him. He took real satisfaction in being able to help people. Of course,
it did take a toll on him from time to time because he would get so close
to the patients and families. Naturally, losing them did take a toll.
He would sometimes think about retiring, but something always pulled him
back. He just felt a calling for it.”
Facing a diagnosis of throat cancer in December 2016, Gobel began chemotherapy
and radiation treatment. When it was discovered in September 2017 that
the cancer had spread, he resolutely decided to enter North Oaks Hospice
on September 25.
The decision was in keeping with Gobel’s disciplined, independent
nature, according to Mollie. That discipline was harnessed during his
four years of service in the U.S. Air Force before completing his undergraduate
degree in social work at Northwestern, followed by his master’s
degree at LSU. Before his illness, Mollie points out that he was the picture
of health and always ended his workday with his “Air Force exercises.”
“He wanted to call the shots,” she continues. “He felt
strongly about people making their own choices and setting the pace. He
believed hospice did just that.”
Mollie worried that it might be too difficult for the staff to care for
one of their own.
But Gobel reassured her saying, “Oh, it will be OK. They’re
professionals. They’ll do fine, but you can ask them.”
“So I did,” Mollie affirms. “I called Courtney (Ridgedell),
the hospice manager, and she talked to the staff, and they all said they
would be honored to take him on as a patient.
“When he felt good, he would sit on the patio or walk around the
yard. As he got weaker, he asked for a hospital bed to replace his recliner
in our living room, and three days before his passing Oct. 9 at the age
of 80, he asked to be moved to the Richard Murphy Hospice House in Hammond.
I think it was his way of trying to protect us,” recounts Mollie.
“I was impressed with the way Hospice cared and that they were always
Mollie attended the memory tree gathering with their daughter, Pam. Together,
they found the perfect spot on the tree for Gobel’s LSU truck ornament.
“I originally wanted to find a hat ornament because everyone knew
Gobel for his Tilley hats,” Mollie explains.
When a hat proved challenging to find, Mollie came across the LSU ornament online.
“He loved his trucks and LSU – particularly football. During
the Christmas season, he loved a real tree and the way it smelled,”
A social worker herself, Mollie understands the value and importance of
North Oaks Hospice’s bereavement services.
“Sister June (Engelbrecht), the bereavement counselor, has visited
and called to check on me, and it has helped,” she notes. “Now
that the holidays have passed, I plan to attend the bereavement support
Hospice is a special kind of care given in the home that provides support
in a sensitive manner for patients with life-limiting illnesses. The North
Oaks team focuses on the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of the
patient and emphasizes the importance of the patient’s quality of life.
If you know someone coping with a terminal illness whom may benefit from
hospice care, call North Oaks Hospice at (985) 230-7620 for a complimentary
consultation with no obligation.