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Community Comes Together to Trim Tree of Treasured Memories

Community Comes Together to Trim Tree of Treasured Memories

On the morning of Saturday, Dec. 9, members of the community came together for a standing room only remembrance celebration and to trim a Christmas tree with hand-picked ornaments symbolizing treasured memories of their loved ones.

The “Memory Tree Remembrance Celebration” carries on a 31-year tradition that affirms the lives of former Hospice patients. Held in the E. Brent Dufreche Conference Center on the campus of North Oaks Medical Center, it is one component of North Oaks Hospice’s bereavement counseling and support services provided to families and caregivers for one year following the death of their loved one. 

Verdie Comeaux of Maurepas is one such patient lovingly remembered. Comeaux, who would have celebrated her ninetieth birthday in August, received North Oaks Hospice care in her home for three weeks prior to her passing on May 7 from a life-limiting illness. Comeaux’s daughter, Donna Stewart, attended the ceremony with her husband Terry and 2-year-old granddaughter Andie Mae to celebrate her life. They are pictured at center with North Oaks Hospice team members, from left, as follows: Chaplain Edie Tranchina; Social Worker Amber Cocchiola; Nurse Trenice Coleman; Certified Nursing Assistant Carolyne Haynes; Nurses Patrice Pellittieri and Jane Frederick; Program Assistant Belinda Badeaux; and Director Lisa Goings. 

The ceremony was filled with reflection, poetry and song led by Tranchina, Cocchiola and Goings, as well as Volunteer Darick Selders. He has volunteered with North Oaks Hospice to sing standards like “Amazing Grace” and “This Christmas” for twelve years.

Following the program, guests gathered around the memory tree to find just the right spot to hang their loved one’s ornament, take family pictures, as well as enjoy refreshments and fellowship.

In a nod to Comeaux’s small collection of Santas and Christmas villages, the family chose a village house ornament with a snow-covered roof to hang on the tree.

“I just thought Mom would like it. It’s pretty, and it can even light up,” explains Stewart.

Stewart shares that family never left Comeaux’s side in her final weeks. Donna and Terry, along with her siblings Danny Picou and his wife Sheilla, Belinda Chauvin and her husband David, and Penny Lalejini and her husband David took turns staying with her and caring for her with the assistance of the North Oaks Hospice team.

“When the decision was made to transition Mom to hospice care, I thought it would just be a nurse visiting her,” notes Stewart. “I didn’t realize it would be an entire team caring for her and us. They treated all of us with dignity, patience, kindness and expertise. It was so easy to grow in friendship with them, and day or night, we felt comfortable calling upon them for 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 and their families. Under the oversight of Medical Director Steven Gaudin, M.D., the North Oaks Hospice team is comprised of physicians, nurses, counselors, therapists, aides and volunteers. Care focuses on the patient’s emotional, physical and spiritual needs and emphasizes the importance of quality of life.

Stewart continues, “Mom was a parishioner of St. Stephen’s in Whitehall and went to church as long as she was able. She said her rosary often and always kept it near.”

When Comeaux entered hospice care, the family priest would make house calls, and Tranchina reached out as well, which made quite an impression on the family.

Stewart affirms, “Edie offered to come and read scripture with Mom and us. Sometimes, she would just sit down with me to talk. It was not always about Mom; it could be about anything on my mind.”

Beyond the remembrance celebration, other bereavement counseling and services offered include free caregiver, cancer and grief support groups. The support group meetings are professionally led and open to the general public. Pre-registration is not required.

To learn more about North Oaks Hospice or to receive a complimentary consultation with no obligation, call (985) 230-7620.