40 for 40: June Carty’s Story

“To thine own self be true” is the motto that June Carty lived by. She never apologized for being exactly who she was. June’s daughter, Mitzi, describes her mother as a brilliant, beautiful and complicated woman who served as a powerful role model to her children, grandchildren and everyone who knew her.

June loved her children, but she didn’t show them affection in a conventional way. Not one to dote on them, cook for them, or even fold their clothes, June focused her energy on teaching them to be strong and independent. She modeled this in her distinguished career and activism on Capitol Hill. As the administrative assistant for the Chairman of the Ways and Means committee, no one got by June easily. When she walked into a room, people stood out of respect for her. When she was seated, June could often be found with a cigar in one hand and a Jack Daniels in the other.

The final chapter of June’s life closed with the same strength and determination. June believed that “death is just birth, but on the other side”. She wanted to die on her own terms and was clear about her wishes with her family and professional caregivers. Mitzi shares that her mother’s Capital Caring team supported Mitzi when she advocated for June’s choices with tremendous compassion and understanding. They were a “best friend” to Mitzi during a very difficult time. Mitzi says that the Capital Caring team was her strength when she thought she ran out of strength on her own. “It felt like my mom and I were the most important people in the world to our Capital Caring team during those last days of Mom’s life.”

“The greatest gift for a family is to be able to say, ‘I have no regrets’, and Capital Caring made that possible for my family,” says Mitzi. There was no one in the world quite like June Carty, and Mitzi is grateful that this unique mother was cared for so beautifully during her final days. June leaves a legacy of a remarkable woman who pioneered the way for future generations of women to follow.

40 for 40: Craig Fisher’s Story

My husband Craig was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the day before his 61st birthday. That’s a vicious disease, and he didn’t even make it six months from that date. We relied so heavily on Capital Caring to help take care of him, take him to the hospital for his infusions, bring him his medications, and visit him, because I was working about an hour away from home and needed to hang onto my new job, through which we had our health insurance. He believed the Capital Caring staff and volunteers were true angels and spent the last few months of his life exhorting everybody to become a volunteer. I had to let a few year go by before I was emotionally ready, but as soon as that time came, I fulfilled my promise to him and became a Capital Caring volunteer. And I continue to be aware that everybody associated with this organization really is an angel. — Gail Fisher

40 for 40: Gail Fisher

My husband Craig was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the day before his 61st birthday. That’s a vicious disease, and he didn’t even make it six months from that date. We relied so heavily on Capital Caring to help take care of him, take him to the hospital for his infusions, bring him his medications, and visit him, because I was working about an hour away from home and needed to hang onto my new job, through which we had our health insurance. He believed the CC staff and volunteers were true angels and spent the last few months of his life exhorting everybody to become a volunteer. I had to let a few year go by before I was emotionally ready, but as soon as that time came, I fulfilled my promise to him and became a CC volunteer. And I continue to be aware that everybody associated with this organization really is an angel.

40 for 40: Deacon Beasley’s Story

Deacon Beasley hailed originally from North Carolina, though he and his family settled in Petersburg, Virginia, after he completed his Army service. With a strong faith, Deacon Beasley devoted as much time as possible to ministry; he sang in the Gospel Unlimited Choir and served with the Southside Jail and Prison Ministry for more than 30 years. He assisted ex-offenders as they transitioned back into society by providing clothes, transportation, housing, employment opportunities, and housing support. His family referred to Deacon Beasley as a “living example” of Luke 4:18 –

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recover of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”

Like Deacon Beasley, Capital Caring is passionate about caring for all those who need our support. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support everyone who reaches out to us, whether they are in Largo (MD) or Leesburg (VA), Richmond (VA) or Washington (DC), Morgantown (WV) or anywhere in between. Just as Deacon Beasley was called to care for others, all of us at Capital Caring are passionate about providing care, comfort, and a warm hug to all those facing advanced illness.

We are so grateful for the time we spent with Deacon Beasley and his extended family and thank them for allowing us to walk with them during Deacon Beasley’s final journey.

40 for 40: Gina Bell’s Story

“I am so full of love and gratitude for Capital Caring.”

I was diagnosed in 2015 with stage 3 breast cancer at age 56. I had chemo, then surgery. I then developed Congestive Heart Failure, which was a result of the chemotherapy. My cardiologist referred me to Capital Caring. I had palliative care, and was then admitted to hospice. I live at home with my mom.

I want to tell you about the Capital Caring staff who have become an important part of my life:

Kathy McLaughlin is my RN Case Manager. I am so glad that Kathy is my nurse. She’s efficient, super knowledgeable, warm, caring, and makes me feel good at every visit and phone call. We get along really well. She is a “top notch” nurse and always makes me feel comfortable. We have great conversations, and when she visits, I know I have nothing to worry about.

I have had 3 hospice chaplains during my time with Capital Caring: Janae Moore, Laird Thomasson, and Carla Thompson. They are all wonderful. Laird, in particular, always had something good to say and often said, “You have a place here.”

I love my social worker, Maria McKain. She is awesome. She worked with a couple local nonprofit organizations to help me get a free grocery delivery service and house cleaning for women with cancer.

Dr. Elizabeth Phan also visits me. I am a huge fan. She is a “firecracker” and always makes me smile, and my HHAs, Berekti and Sosina, are great.

The call center people are wonderful, and I appreciate their daily calls to check on me. I love talking to them. They make my day.

I am so full of love and gratitude for Capital Caring. They make me feel like they care about me as an individual. I smile a lot. I am doing pretty “darn tooting” good. I owe a big thanks to Capital Caring. Capital Caring has been a big blessing in my life.

40 for 40: Cici Schultz’s Story

Having been on the receiving end of care of Capital Caring’s services in 1997, I met a volunteer who was assigned to my father. I always watched him and wondered what inspired him to visit twice a week, sitting quietly when naps took over, or reading the newspaper to a surprisingly inquisitive audience. My mother wouldn’t admit that she needed the respite, but would return from personal errands relieved and rejuvenated. I realized then that the volunteer was here for the whole family, not only for the person in the bed.

When my father passed, this volunteer wrote us the kindest note about him and his love for his three girls. That resonated with me. 23 years later, my mother was in the same patient situation. I moved her in with me, became her nurse and advocate (as many of us do). When she passed, it was time to give back to the wonderful caregivers I had relied on.

As a committed volunteer, I know that my service helps the family. Often the patients don’t need much, but the spouses, children, parents, and others rely on me to be a calm presence, one who has been in their shoes, one who will hold their hands through their darkest of times. My fondest memories with patients are the times when they are acknowledging the real love surrounding them, they are in gratitude and are feeling nothing but support. Those are the times that fill my soul. Those are the times when I know that this service makes a difference. As a (self proclaimed) “grief ambassador,” I will help to minimize fear and confusion, offering unconditional support. I always think about my dad’s volunteer and wonder, what made him sign up, who filled up his soul?

40 for 40: Dennis Morley’s Story

“Dennis left a distinct imprint that lingers,” said Kirsten Morley, Dennis’ wife of 19 years.  He was “outgoing, funny, and had a soft, big heart. He would do anything for a friend.” Dennis carried his love and compassion into his life in a variety of ways, including as a husband, father of four, elementary school teacher, music lesson instructor, drummer, and performer. He absolutely loved introducing kids to music!

Kirsten shares that she continues to feel Dennis’ presence in the way their children, Sarah, Elizabeth, Andrew, and Brian live each day. His goofy sense of humor and funny nicknames for family members, pets, and friends continue to be remembered with a smile. One of Dennis’ professional colleagues shares that it was Dennis who kept people positive and connected in the workplace. Dennis taught music, but he also taught kids and adults how to listen to and value one another.

Dennis loved his family and life so much that he fought with all of his might, for a long time, to keep carrying on as normal. When he had done all he possibly could, Dennis gracefully accepted what was to come. His priority was ensuring his wife and children were well taken care of and that their futures would be secure. With the help of the Capital Caring team, Dennis was able to express his thoughts and his love during his final moments with his family.

“Capital Caring anticipated our every need,” says Kirsten. She continues that she and Dennis felt supported and well cared for by each person who contributed to his care team. Kirsten is grateful for the excellent care that Capital Caring provided them during this very difficult time.

Though she misses her husband deeply, Kirsten is sure that his memory will live on forever in the hearts and music of so many young people and adults who were blessed just to know Dennis Morley. And, in honor of Dennis, Capital Caring’s Fredericksburg neighborhood implemented a special “Music for Caring” program. An ambitious high school junior, Jackson Hoit, made “Music for Caring” his special school project. As a result, he and a handful of dedicated teen volunteers have been enriching the lives of Capital Caring’s moms, dads and kids with their beautiful music since Dennis’ passing in September of 2016.

40 for 40: Bill Lucas’ Story

Like many folks, my first exposure to what Hospice care can mean to a family occurred when my father was battling cancer in Delaware. We and he were comforted and impressed with the care and compassion the hospice team provided my Dad and my family through a difficult period. Later we again availed ourselves of Capital Hospice (now known as Capital Caring) when my Mom came to spend her final months with us in Gainesville, VA. It’s a team approach – doctor, nurse, certified nursing assistant, social worker, chaplain, bereavement counselors and the one that might surprise you – volunteers.

I began volunteering with Capital Caring in 2008 and had no idea what an impact it would have on me and what a difference it could make to those I have been blessed to serve. I had one elderly patient tell me he felt like I was his best friend since high school. Why? Certainly in part because as a volunteer you can put people at ease and take their mind off their medical condition. I had another patient who I realized liked jokes. So every week, I made sure I had at least one new joke. His son who monitored his Dad on another floor using a baby monitor caught me on the way out and said: “That is the first time I have heard my Dad laugh in over a year.” I have played checkers with a dementia patient, taken a 92-year old WWII veteran to visit the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico and found many other ways to connect with some kind, courageous people who are facing the most difficult challenge in their life.

Beyond the needs of the patients you visit, consider the positive impact you have on the primary caregiver, generally a spouse or adult child, who needs to get out for errands or respite from the constant stress of caring for their loved one. They may feel guilty or uncomfortable about leaving. But those feelings are quickly overcome when they know that the volunteer has training and experience and knows what to do in the event of emergency. Just today the spouse of one of the patients I visit pulled me aside as I was leaving to say: “He hates for me to go anywhere. But he is comfortable with you being here and the friendship you share with him. I can’t thank you enough.”

40 for 40: Alix Suggs’ Story

When I retired from a career in federal law enforcement and a 10 year stint as a federal contractor, I sought an avocation in retirement that would feed my soul, so to speak, in a totally different way than my career had.  While mulling around what I might do, and sort of “decompressing” from the fast lane of working and commuting, I helped a dear friend in a way that ultimately led to my realizing that hospice work might be just the thing.  She was still a year from being able to retire and was still making the commute from Fredericksburg into D.C. everyday, whilst her then 95 year old mother, who was living with her and her husband, was getting more and more care dependent.  I spent two days a week at her home, and quickly learned how deeply gratifying it is to help people who are dealing with a family member’s growing frailty and trying to keep up with normal responsibilities.

It hit me that hospice work might be something that would fit.  And it has.  I learned three things very early on.  First—it’s not depressing.  The people you meet and the gratitude they bathe you in just simply lifts you up.  Second—seeing the difficult times my clients and their families are going through is humbling, and has thrown all the blessings of my life into high relief.  That awareness is a gift to me.  And third—when a patient passes, I see and feel it as a blessed release for both the patient and the family.

I have to say that working with my patients, their families, and the wonderful people who make up Capital Caring is the most gratifying thing I have ever done.  It’s an endeavor I feel deeply honored to be entrusted with, and very lucky to be able to do.

40 for 40: Karen Tyner’s Story

In Spring 1982, my mother became a Hospice of Northern Virginia homecare patient and I a primary care giver, in addition to working and studying in the first year of my MSW program.  By July of that year, it was recommended that Mother go to the newly opened inpatient unit in Arlington for symptom management and 5 days of respite.  So off she went to that brightly lit and colored, renovated old schoolhouse now known as the Capital Caring Halquist Center.  She died there four days later.

The Northern Virginia Sun newspaper ran an article on August 21, 1983, about the priest, Father Jim Denn, who was working at this ‘new in-hospice’ facility and the first Mass that he said at a dying woman’s bedside.  Here is an excerpt from that article:

Fr. Denn’s favorite story about his work so far has to do with the first formal Mass he read in the hospice itself.

A Catholic patient in her 40’s was dying of brain cancer.  He knew this but didn’t think her death was imminent.  While he was planning for the first mass, one of the charge nurses came to him and asked if he would be willing to read the service in the patient’s room, saying she was too ill to be moved.  He agreed and served communion to the patient and her daughter, along with about 25 other patients and staff members who gathering in the room for the service.

“While I was reading I saw the nurse go over to the bedside with a blood pressure cuff.  A little bit later the charge nurse came into the room and stood by the bed until the service ended.  I knew something was happening.”

About an hour and a half later, the patient told her daughter, “I’m dying.”  She did die…………..

That woman was my mother, and I was her 24-year-old daughter, who was born just down the street in Arlington Hospital.

In 1984, I did my 2nd year MSW internship with the Hospice of Northern Virginia Bereavement Program and stayed on doing contract work for a couple of years co-leading grief support groups and workshops.  Through my 32 years of healthcare MSW work, I have used the grief theory knowledge I learned during my internship.

And now I’m back as a Bereavement Counselor with Capital Caring’s Prince William Region, where I have been since Fall 2011. It is my sincere hope to stay with Capital Caring until I retire.