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Unique Christmas Tree Memorializes Loved Ones

  • Category: In The News
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  • Written By: Melanie Zaffuto
Unique Christmas Tree Memorializes Loved Ones

In keeping with a 23-year tradition, a special Christmas tree will stand tall in the lobby of the E. Brent Dufreche Conference Center on the North Oaks Medical Center campus through Jan. 6, 2016.

From each sturdy branch hangs an ornament selected and placed with care by the loved ones of a North Oaks Hospice patient in his or her memory at a special gathering held Dec. 3. Its trunk is wrapped in a skirt hand-crafted by the late Christine Verdross, a Hospice volunteer, to depict the star map in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth.

This “Memory Tree” is offered to support family members and caregivers of former patients as part of the North Oaks Hospice Bereavement Program. Each former patient’s family members and caregivers receive bereavement support following the patient’s passing.

Evelyn Jones of Hammond attended the gathering in memory of her late husband Jacob “Jake” Jones, who passed away at the age of 88 in October 2015 due to a heart condition. With her daughter-in-law Karie Jones of Lacombe and Hospice Bereavement Counselor Sr. June Engelbrecht at her side, Evelyn picked the perfect branch to secure a clear bulb with a lighted snowman inside in Jake’s memory.

“You can’t help but smile when you see a snowman and lights,” Evelyn remarked, adding that the ornament called to mind happy memories of her nearly 61-year marriage to Jake.

Despite the loss of her husband, Evelyn shared that it was a relief to have Hospice help with his care, speaking candidly of the toll being his primary caregiver was taking on her. “I was tired and sick with stress,” she commented.

“Hospice’s health care professionals and volunteers helped to make Jake’s final days as comfortable as possible and supported us with vital education about what to expect,” Evelyn explained. “They made countless visits and were always there when we needed them most.”

On a nearby branch hangs an ornament in memory of Hilary Hutchinson of Head of Island. His daughter, Cathy Cullen of Hammond, pictured below, explains that it was hand-painted by her friend and coworker, Kristi Bourgeois. It represents her father’s love of deer hunting, a favorite pastime at his Wilson camp throughout much of his 85 years.

Hutchinson entered Hospice care in the end stages of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and passed away in April 2015. Despite his prognosis, Cullen describes her father’s time in Hospice as “the most comfortable she had seen him in ages.”

“The staff has this ability to remember everything about your situation,” notes Cullen. “Having Hospice helps you through it.“

Hospice is a special kind of care given in a home setting that provides support in a sensitive manner for patients with a life-limiting, progressive illness. The North Oaks Hospice team focuses on the patient’s emotional, physical and spiritual needs and emphasizes the importance of the patient’s quality of life.

North Oaks Hospice consistently ranks in the top 1 percent nationally for patient and family experience, according to national, independent Press Ganey surveys.

If you know someone coping with a life-limiting illness who may benefit from Hospice care, call the North Oaks Hospice office at (985) 230-7620 for a complimentary consultation with no obligation. Clickhere for answers to frequently asked questions about Hospice care.