Filling up with hope and joy!

DSC_0332The journey from grief to hope and joy is not easy, it is not fast, and it is not linear.  Talking helps.  Broken flower pots help.  Knowing there are others who have walked this same road helps.  Just ask the Jones family.

Theresa Jones will never forget the day.  May 18, 2017.  A Thursday.  Her son, John Reuben Jones, was killed in a car accident.

“I cried every day,” said Theresa, “every day for months.  And then a friend took me to the grief workshop at Hospice of East Texas.  It helped me so much, and I asked, ‘do you have anything to help children?’  My grandchildren were in such pain.”

Jaxon and Jaycee, Reuben’s children and Theresa’s grandchildren, were soon enrolled in WINGs, Hospice of East Texas’ program for grieving children.  They attended a day long grief camp and have since participated in monthly support groups.

Jaycee remembers, “When I came to camp for the first time, at first I felt scared and then I felt happy.”  Jaxson recounts, “I learned how to control the feelings and everything because it was hard before I came here, and it helped me a lot.”

Chantel Longino, Hospice of East Texas’ children’s bereavement specialist, describes WINGs’ activities.  “Children don’t sit in a circle for an hour and talk about their feelings like adults might do.  That would never work.  The beauty of our program is that we get to speak the children’s language.  We use different activities to engage the kids in conversation about their feelings and all the different aspects of grief.  They need a safe space to talk about their feelings and begin to find hope.”

A favorite activity is “flower pot feelings”.  Children shatter a clay flower pot and write their feelings on the pot.  Anger.  Sad.  Lonely.  With the help of volunteers, they glue the pot back together, talking about how things that are broken can be made whole again, with a little work.  They plant a small succulent in the pot and take it home.

Volunteer Sam Scarborough was drawn to the work of the WINGs program because he lost his father when he was young.  “My father passed on 9/11,” says Sam.  “The reason Jaxon and I connected is that he and I have very similar personalities. I can see myself where he was at that point in my life.”

Jaxson says, “We did a lot of projects, like making a memory box with things about our loved one and most of the time me and Sam just talked the whole time because he lost his dad around my age.  We just talked about how he lost his dad and I talked about how similar they are to me.”

Sam adds, “It’s just very important for these kinds to be able to come here once a month, talk about what’s going on, see other people.  They aren’t the only ones in the world who have lost someone.  It happens every day.   From personal experience of losing somebody, I know it’s huge for these kids to be able to come here and do this.  It really is. Everything helps, especially when it comes to kids.”

Theresa Jones is emphatic in her gratitude.  “What this has done for my kids… there are no words to say how grateful I am.  What you have done for my babies is amazing.”   And little Jaycee perhaps says it best,  “Sometimes when I’m sad and I go to this program, they just talk to me and say nice words to me and make me feel happy and then I get filled up with joy.”

The WINGs program for children and teens is free of charge to participants and open to any family grieving a loss, not just families served by Hospice of East Texas.  It is completely funded by private donations.

Caring about the mission of Hospice of East Texas…. Forever

Many of you, our friends and supporters, will always be grateful to Hospice of East Texas fall 2018 2for the care your loved one received.  Others of you have not been direct recipients of our extraordinary care, but believe strongly in the mission of this beloved community institution.  All of you want the same thing:  for Hospice of East Texas to continue to care for east Texans for years and years to come.

You can help to ensure the future of our work by including a charitable bequest to Hospice of East Texas in your will.  With simple wording in your will such as “I give and bequeath to Hospice of East Texas the sum of ________” or “I give and bequeath to Hospice of East Texas ___% of my estate” or “I give and bequeath to Hospice of East Texas my home located at _______” or “I give and bequeath to Hospice of East Texas the following securities _______” you will make something extraordinary happen.  You will be a part of ensuring that Hospice of East Texas will always be here to provide expert and compassionate end-of-life-care to any person who needs us, regardless of their financial circumstances or life situation.

You care about Hospice of East Texas now.  A gift in your will ensures that you can care about it in the future.  Please consult with your professional advisers for expert advice.  And if you prepare for such a gift, please let us know so that we can thank you.

Kathryn Rogers

Kathryn rogersKathryn Rogers is a registered nurse whose professional career spanned three decades, in Michigan, Dallas and Tyler. She was an OB supervisor, a medical researcher, an ICU supervisor, and the OR supervisor at what was known as “the chest hospital” back in the day.  She held a corporate position supervising nursing homes and built two assisted living facilities.

Through all those jobs and in all those places, Kathryn developed a heart for patients at the end of life, and when she retired, she decided being a hospice volunteer might be for her.  “I went to Hospice of East Texas for a tour, and that sold me,” she says.

“People ask me why I chose to volunteer at Hospice,” says Kathryn, “and my answer is ‘Hospice chose me.’  I really feel this is where I was meant to be, especially after the death of my husband.  Hospice saved my life.”

Kathryn volunteers at Hospice four mornings a week.  She would volunteer every day, but her boss, Kim Reel, the volunteer coordinator, makes her take a day off!

Kathryn’s volunteer job is to call the physician of record for each Hospice patient who has passed away, to let the doctor know of their passing.  Some days it’s ten calls, some days it’s thirty.  The calls are a courtesy so that doctors’ offices are informed and can update their records, but it’s also more than that.  The relationship between many patients, their physicians and the office staff can go back decades, and the calls are often meaningful and touching to those who receive them.

The calls are an extra touch from Hospice of East Texas, letting the physicians and their staff know that we are thinking of them too.  Kathryn has been doing these calls so long and so well, that when she’s out and someone else is making the calls, the physicians’ office staff say, “Where is Kathryn?”

Hospice of East Texas is very grateful to Kathryn Rogers for the gift of her time and the gift of her heart for our patients and families.

Our friend, Bobby Crone

Bobby CroneThere are some people who are just fixtures at Hospice of East Texas, and Bobby Crone is one of them.   You can find him at our offices most every day… and even on the days you don’t see him around, it’s most likely that he’s doing something, somewhere for Hospice.

Hospice has a yard service, but Bobby puts the finishing touches on their work to make sure the grounds and gardens around the Robert M. Rogers Hospice Center and HomePlace always look nice.  In the warmer months, Bobby is often at work just as the sun comes up, before it gets too hot.  No limb touches the ground for too long!

For several years, Bobby volunteered to lead the bereavement support group for people who had lost their spouses, a job that requires great compassion and attention.

Bobby makes regular rounds to the freezers in all the employee break rooms and office areas to keep them stocked with ice cream and frozen treats, such a nice touch that is so appreciated by our staff.

And for years and years, Bobby has volunteered to visit hospice patients in their homes.  His volunteer coordinator knows that she can count on Bobby for any assignment, anywhere.  He will go to homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities.   He is willing to help those patients and families who are difficult or who live in difficult circumstances.  It doesn’t matter.  Bobby knows what they are going through, because Hospice of East Texas cared for his beloved Martha in the final months of her life.  It’s because he had the same experience that Bobby now gives back to Hospice of East Texas.

We can’t imagine a day in the life of Hospice of East Texas without the presence of Bobby Crone.

Old Faithful Watch Party

IMG_2472Mr. Billy Stanley is a retired engineer.  A smart and physically active man for most of his life, Mr. Stanley’s dementia has robbed him of many of his physical and mental capabilities; a hard thing for him and a hard thing for his wife to watch.

On a routine visit to Mr. Stanley in his nursing home room on a day that was a particularly hard day, Hospice of East Texas Chaplain, David Badders asked Mr. Stanley what he would like to do, anything he would like to do if only he could.  The answer was unexpected.  “I’d like to go see Old Faithful,” said Mr. Stanley.  “I always wanted to see that, and I never did.”

That’s the kind of statement that sets the Hospice of East Texas team into motion.  There’s something one of our patients wants.   What can we do to make it happen?

Chaplain David contacted Marleen Elkins, volunteer coordinator, and Dave Lemming, Mr. Stanley’s Hospice volunteer.  Dave did some research and found out that it was possible to watch the eruptions of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming via a live web cam set up by the geyser. Dave also figured out how to connect to the webcam with his computer and how to stream the footage onto the television in the nursing home’s living room.

Marleen called Colonial Lindale nursing home and proposed having an “Old Faithful Watch Party”.  The staff  was delighted!

On the appointed day, Dave arrived early to get all the technology set up, and when Mr. Stanley and his wife, Nelda, came into the room they were greeted by the site of Old Faithful in real time on the television.  Like the park visitors on the screen, waiting patiently all bundled up against the cold, the “Old Faithful Watch Party” in the nursing home gathered around to watch and wait.  Marleen shared a guide book she bought on a recent vacation with beautiful color photos of Old Faithful.

Then, something magical happened.  Mr. Stanley’s engineering mind kicked into high gear.  “What is the volume of water the geyser spouts?” he asked.  “How high does it go?”  “How often does it erupt?”  Engaged, happy, and animated, Mr. Stanley fired question after question, his eyes twinkling, and a smile on his face, as Marleen found the answers in the guide book.  Mrs. Stanley beamed at the sight of her husband, talkative and ‘on point’, the way he had once been.  Then, it was time.  Old Faithful erupted, just as it does every day, exactly on schedule, and the “Old Faithful Watch Party” was there to cheer this wonder of nature, so far away and yet right there in the living room of Colonial Lindale.

“What would you like to do?” Chaplain David had asked on a particularly hard day.  The Hospice of East Texas team took Mr. Billy Stanley to Yellowstone National Park to see Old Faithful just as he wished, creating a really good day and some special moments full of joy and wonder.

A Moment~Well~Taken

hospiceA5[1]As usual, I was on my way, to make my way through another busy day at work. The traffic was normal. The pressure I felt as I mentally ran down the list of my “to do’s” for the day was normal.  In fact, everything appeared to be fairly normal…until I happened to glance down and notice the time.  As the numbers registered on my brain, I realized that I was just a little early for a meeting.  And then it happened, for some inexplicable reason I pressed the brake pedal, turned on my turn signal and pulled into a parking lot.  I pass by this parking lot every day and hardly give it a second thought.  On this day, however, I found myself in it.  I came to a stop. I put the car in park. I turned off the radio, and I turned off the engine then I took a deep breath.

I lifted my eyes to look past the dash board and there it was, right in front of me… a beautiful morning sunrise.  The sky was spectacular!  Above the cars and trucks and SUVs and trailers and headlights and taillights… above the buildings and the billboards, the sun was rising in the east and gray clouds were floating by, changing shapes at the whim of the breeze that blew.  As they moved ever-so-slowly, the sun beyond seemed to squeeze its golden rays through the shadows.  The sun with all of its brightness and brilliance is a warm and welcomed friend, but, the clouds add something special to the canvas as well.  They add shape, shadow, depth and perspective.  The gray clouds of the morning, gently rolling past the rising sun, remind me of the mystery of life and the privilege of hope.

Oh… to pull over from time to time (especially during the busy holiday season) and shift into park, turn everything off just for a moment.  Then to lift up our eyes and see the wonder of what is more often than not, right in front of us.  There are thoughts to think, mysteries to contemplate and there is hope to embrace… just beyond the dash board and above the buildings and the billboards.

If you will take the time to pull over every now and then, you too may just find that it is… A Moment [well] Taken.

Later… Wes

Holiday Survival

Holiday Survival DSC_0195
By Wes M. Bynum

As we continue through the holiday season, I wanted to send you a little encouragement for making it through these days.  Our instinct tells us that after the death of a loved one these can be difficult days as we adjust to all the changes that have come to our lives.

The good news is you do not have to wait for a special day to arrive and then simply see how you will react.  You can make choices that can help soften the day and move you along in the grieving process.

As you continue through this special season of merriment and memories, consider the following:

  • Plan Ahead… be deliberate and proactive in how you want to live that day.
  • Set your own tone… no one else can know how you feel or what you need.
  • Be realistic… recognize your limitations.
  • Be open and honest with your emotions.
  • Allow others to grieve in their own way.
  • Expect the best!

Keep this in mind: Choices…Control…Confidence…Stability… With each choice we make, there comes a sense of control. With control, comes confidence.  Confidence leads to stability.

Remember the past, embrace the present, and in the words of Thoreau; “go confidently in the direction of your dreams. (Dare to) live the life you have imagined.”


The shadows lengthen.  The sun moves slowly, and steadily makes its journey to lands far away.  The orange red glow begins to melt into shadows and shades of grey.  A soft breeze is blowing and the leaves are dancing to its gentle rhythm.

Crape Myrtle flowers on campus July2,2012 006


Somehow, in some way, and without clear definition, the light of day is no longer and the darkness of night is now.  Why did it have to come?

How did it get here?  How long will it last?  Does anybody notice?  What will happen next?  Some questions have logical, scientific, absolute answers.  Some questions defy our ability to come to any kind of answer at all.


Darkness prevails. It is a time for contemplation and reflection.  Truth is hard to accept at times. At some point, thoughts and experiences become memories.  Tomorrow holds new hope.  Sleep deeply. Rest peacefully.  Dream sweetly…



Now open your eyes!  Your heart is beating.  A sense of anticipation and excitement is in the air.  Light has returned.  Darkness has gone.  The sun is brilliant.  The sky is blue. The sweet fragrance of morning is carried along on the wings of the wind.  Soft, happy songs of busy birds gently touch the ear.  The soul of man rejoices.

By Wes Bynum

Down a Long Dirt Road…

Let’s call him Joe.  He had lived alone, very alone, for a long time.  His home, if you could call it that, was down a long, dirt road, down  a long dirt driveway, behind a gate he kept locked at all times. dirt road pic

Joe’s history of erratic behavior, his flashing anger and his unkempt ways had alienated his family long ago and had driven away anyone who tried to help.

When Joe was referred to hospice care, he was reluctant to accept the help, to say the least.  Literally no one had been near him or in his home for a very long time.  It took a while for the staff to earn his trust, to get him to unlock the gate so that they could drive to his house, to get him to agree to their help with his pain and symptoms.  Because they never knew what they might find at Joe’s, for their own safety the hospice staff always went in pairs, usually two nurses, sometimes a nurse and a chaplain, always one of them a male.  Very gradually, Joe softened a bit, and most of the time he was receptive and cooperative.  The staff knew that living alone like that wasn’t the best situation for Joe, but it was ok for now, the best anyone could do.

One day when nurses Alice and Brian arrived at Joe’s locked gate for their regularly scheduled visit, they honked the car horn as they always did, signaling their arrival so that  Joe would come down the drive and let them in.  No one came out of the house.  They honked again and then again, and finally Joe came onto the porch, keys to the gate in hand, but very unsteady on his feet.  He reached to steady himself, and then he fell.

Brian climbed the fence and ran to Joe, got him comfortable, then ran back to open the gate for Alice and the medicines and supplies they had in the car.  Joe was conscious, but suddenly he began to have a seizure, then another, then another.  Brian called the hospice office, reached Stacy, the chaplain, and asked him to get a doctor’s order and bring medicines that could stop the seizures. Recognizing that Joe could not stay alone any longer, Brian called for an ambulance to transport him to HomePlace, Hospice of East Texas’ in-patient facility.

Alice and Brian and Stacy stayed with Joe, administering the medicines Stacy brought, doing what they could to comfort and soothe him while they waited on the ambulance. It took a long time, because medical transport of a hospice patient is not an emergency.  Brian found Joe’s daughter’s phone number in his records and called her.  She came to his home, reluctantly. The hospice nurses were able to explain to her that her father had a brain tumor.  Maybe he had had it for a long time.  Maybe it might explain the violence and anger that had alienated him from everyone, even from those who loved him long ago.  Maybe.

Once at HomePlace, the staff bathed and shaved Joe and he was clean, for the first time in a long while.  They nestled him in a clean room, in clean pajamas, in a bed with clean sheets.  Though he never regained consciousness, Joe was quiet and comfortable, pain free and at peace. He passed away that night, and his daughter was by his side.

At Hospice of East Texas, one of our core beliefs is that every person deserves a peaceful, dignified death.  With your help, we give that gift to thousands of patients every year, to people in all kinds of circumstances, people whose Sunday dinner tables are filled with family, people with not one friend.  We give that gift to people who live in lavish homes and in travel trailers, to people who will not be remembered and people who will forever be mourned and missed.

With your help, Hospice of East Texas was able to give the gift of a peaceful, dignified death to Joe.  With your help, perhaps we also gave some closure and healing for his daughter.

Thank you.

“You know, we see this kind of thing more often than you would think,” said Chaplain Stacy.  “There are many people who are alone and alienated, by choice or by chance, and then they get sick on top of everything else.  As I like to say, ‘in comes the blue’, the Hospice of East Texas team of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, volunteers.  End of life can be a time of reconciliation, a time for a second chance… or a third or fourth.”