The Power of Hospice to Redefine Hope

Story by Sarah Ruttle

The end of a person’s life is a significant period of time when they are able to reflect on their life and accomplishments, work through their regrets and challenges, and spend their remaining days with friends and family in comfort and peace. For families whose loved one is experiencing a serious illness or life-limiting condition, this precious time is one of life’s most meaningful milestones.

When my grandmother was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at the age of 84, the news was not met with warrior convictions of hope for a cure as cancer diagnoses often are. In fact, our family felt rather hopeless, recognizing that her aging body couldn’t withstand the demands of treatment, even if it had been something she wanted to pursue. We felt powerless to the fact that her cancer hadn’t been detected earlier, at a younger age and an earlier stage in the disease progression. We felt uncertain what this meant for our remaining time with her, something that was already coming sooner than any of us were willing to acknowledge. As I sat next to her at my cousin’s baby shower – our first family event following the news of her diagnosis – I couldn’t find the words to recognize the reality I didn’t want to be true. I had a need to cling to my false hope that she would live forever, serving as she always had as our family matriarch, our keeper of stories and laughs. Perhaps sensing my struggle to simply ask how she was doing, she said “You know, I am at peace. The Lord put me here when he wanted to and he’ll take me away on his time. As long as I can stay in my home and see my family, I’m happy and the cancer doesn’t matter.” With those candid words, she redefined hope. 

Ensuring access to care and compassion

As we eclipsed a year operating in a pandemic, Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care stood with much of the nation poised to resume some normalcy this fall. Unfortunately, as a healthcare provider in the midst of yet another surge of cases, we are challenged with the task of redefining hope for our staff and the patients and families they serve. As a provider of end-of-life care, hope for us does not necessarily lie in recovery; rather, it lies in ensuring the best quality of life for the people in our care. As our mission states, we provide expert care, peace of mind, comfort, guidance, and hope to people who are affected by life-limiting illness or by grief. Hospice gives families the peace of mind to walk together with their loved ones through the end-of-life journey, and through the grief and healing process. 

As a nonprofit healthcare provider, Kansas City Hospice proudly prioritizes the ability to give the same expert, compassionate care to everyone in our community who needs it, regardless of their financial resources. It’s a goal driven by our vision, that each person in our community is valued from life through death and each family is supported in their grief. To that end, Kansas City Hospice provided over $530,000 in healthcare to local families without resources last year, an accomplishment realized only through the support of donors throughout our community. Philanthropic support allows us to say yes when someone in our community needs care. It allows us to show deserved compassion. It’s a way for families to receive the gift of hope at the end of their loved one’s life. 

Celebrating hope

We easily associate hope with a beginning: the birth of a new baby, the start of adulthood at high school graduation, or the pursuit of a new career. Hospice providers understand that hope is found throughout life. All families have hope that the end of their loved one’s life will be beautiful and memorable. Honoring that hope affirms that their life matters, and allows the impact someone made to carry on after their death. Hospice honors the value of life by ensuring physical and emotional comfort and creating space for patients and their families to spend time together in peace. Kansas City Hospice also understands the importance of supporting families through the grief and healing process, which often begins before death and extends far beyond the loss of a loved one. This is why we also provide access to community grief support at no charge through our Solace House Center for Grief and Healing. 

On October 3rd, donors, families, staff and community members will Celebrate Hope with our Sunday Night Live signature fundraising event. Along with so many others in our community, Kansas City Hospice is once again celebrating this incredible event in a virtual environment. While we will miss the energy of an in-person celebration, we are grateful that Sunday Night Live will raise funding critical to fulfilling our mission to provide specialized end-of-life healthcare and grief support to everyone in our community. Those who join us for this event will not only receive a unique evening of entertainment and delicious food and drinks to enjoy in the comfort of their own home, they will have the honor of giving hope to a family walking through the end-of-life journey with a loved one or facing the task of grief and healing. Supporting mission-based nonprofit organizations like Kansas City Hospice ensures gentle, respectful care for patients which brings their families peace for years to come. 

Life’s final milestone

Hope doesn’t just represent what the future can hold – a cure, more time, major accomplishments – hope can be lived in the moment. It can simply be the ability to enjoy today and share moments of joy with those around you, unencumbered by the hardships of the past or the challenges of the future. My grandma’s hope was simply to stay in her home. With the support of palliative and later hospice care, she was able to do that safely and comfortably. It was in the walls of her beloved home that we all continued to experience life with her. Over the next 17 months, we made memories with her 11 great-grandkids as she watched them learn to walk, go to school and share in the stories of her life. It was through hospice that we were given the gift to walk together as a family through one of life’s most significant milestones – the end of life.