A golden anniversary like no other
For Ellen Aldrich, renewing wedding vows with her husband, Frank, was “a very special, poignant and meaningful moment in our lives,” she tearfully recounted of the September 2016 event.
The ceremony, an early celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary, occurred at Hope Hospice’s McCarthy Care Center (MCC) in Sandwich, MA, just days before Frank’s death. (Hope Hospice is part of the HopeHealth family of services.)
Serving as best man was Dr. Jorge A. Alfonso, who treated Frank through the end of his life’s journey. Dr. Alfonso is HopeHealth’s medical director and an internist with Emerald Physicians. He recalled the experience as humbling and emotional.
“God gives me strength,” Dr. Alfonso explained. “Every time I see a patient at MCC, it strengthens me even more. It’s an honor to see the last minutes of a patient’s life and know I did the best I could to help [the patient] achieve their journey in peace.”
Other MCC staff were moved by Ellen and Frank’s mutual love, deeply religious faith and sense of peace. As Frank told the MCC chaplain with a smile, “It’s okay, this is my journey.”
Ellen said she and Frank were deeply comforted by staff members’ attention to their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
“They nicely arranged his rosary beads on his pillow near his head or put them in his hand. They knew how much it meant. After he died, they had my rosary beads and a special Holy Card entwined in his folded hands. That was very touching.”
“There’s no greater way to help people at the end of their life—to help them be more comfortable and make it easier for them—than by supporting HopeHealth.”
A heart-breaking diagnosis
In late 2015, the couple weathered Frank’s diagnosis of glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer that is almost always fatal. He would go on to receive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and was able to take a long-anticipated trip to Italy with family.
Yet despite the best possible medical treatment, the tumor returned. In September 2016, a nurse from Hope Hospice began regular home visits.
“She was a great comfort to the entire family,” Ellen said. “Hope Hospice understands that it is the individual who gets cancer, and the whole family experiences it too.”
During his final weeks, Frank suffered intense pain and a grand mal seizure. When he needed round-the-clock care, he was transferred to MCC. Never intrusive but always available, the caregivers ensured that classical music, an Aldrich passion, played in Frank’s room.
Ellen remembered it as a place of peace and tranquility: “We felt like the only ones there, even with other patients present.”
Paying it forward
Ellen and Frank had known about HopeHealth through business even before he got sick. As owners of a home healthcare franchise, they used to refer clients to HopeHealth and came to learn about its superb services, delivered with compassionate care.
Once in care themselves, they gained a deeper understanding of what home health caregivers and their patients experience. “We knew how critical HopeHealth’s work is and how terrific the staff members are,” said Ellen.
Believing their earthly purpose is to help others, they committed to contributing financially to HopeHealth. And that commitment has continued after Frank’s death.
“There’s no greater way to help people at the end of their life—to help them be more comfortable and make it easier for them—than by supporting HopeHealth,” Ellen said.
HopeHealth and its family of services are non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations. To make a donation, click here. If you have questions, please contact us at (508) 957-0255 in Massachusetts, (401) 415-4206 in Rhode Island, or email us at Giving@HopeHealthCo.org.