The Season of Giving

For volunteer Sue Cousino, Christmas Eve isn’t a time to begin cooking for the next day’s festivities, it’s a day to volunteer at Angela Hospice’s Tree of Life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Sue normally works around 10 shifts at the Tree
    of Life, this year she's working 12 shifts.
“I always work the 24th because lots of the ladies [volunteers] are cooking and no one wants me to cook,” Sue laughed. “I’d like people to live through the holidays so I don’t volunteer to cook, and no one would eat it anyhow if they knew I did.”

So Sue has spent every Christmas Eve for the past 15 years sitting at the Tree of Life table, helping others and not cooking.

What started as only working weekends has now turned into volunteering multiple times per week since she retired. She tends to work around 10 shifts per season. This year, she’s going above average and working 12.

“I love to do it,” she said.

While some things have changed over the years, Sue’s favorite part about the Tree of Life hasn’t.

“Getting to talk to the people, especially the kids,” she said. “They’re so cute.

“They don’t know what it’s all about but they want to remember Nana or somebody,” she continued. “Their parents will say, ‘Remember Nana? This is for her.’ They get all excited and say, ‘Can I write her a letter?’ Then they write a little note. It’s cute.”

Sue’s stories of working the Tree of Life range from cute to a little crazy, like the year one woman wanted to buy a fully-decorated tree. Many of her stories have one thing in common though: the gratitude people have for Angela Hospice.

“People will come to the Tree of Life and say, ‘You guys did such a good job of taking care of my husband, my wife, my this or that,’ and they are so sincere,” Sue said. “They just talk about the great care their loved one received, and they are so relived they did this.”

Sue can understand that feeling. Her dad was in Angela Hospice care in 1997 for a week before passing at 83.

“I can tell people I was able to have my dad at home and he was out of pain and was comfortable,” she said. “He knew what was going on and he wasn’t the least bit worried about dying.”

He had had cancer and then quite a few years later started complaining about back pain. After going to the emergency room twice with her dad the doctor noticed shadows on his x-rays. That second trip to the emergency room was where the idea of putting her dad in hospice was brought up. Sue called Angela Hospice and someone came out the next day.

“It’s the hardest, best thing you will ever do,” she said.

Putting her dad on hospice was hard, but choosing Angela Hospice was an easy decision. Having spent most of her life on the Felician grounds – Sue attended Ladywood High School and Madonna University, and worked at St. Mary’s while in college – she had passed Angela Hospice many times.

Sue and her family also went to the same church as Angela Hospice foundress, Sister Giovanni, and family. Their dads were friends and used to play cards together.

“I can’t get off the block,” she joked.

Even though letting go of a loved one can be extremely difficult Sue was glad that her dad was no longer in pain, and that she was able to spend time with him as his daughter, not his caregiver.

“I know with dad, and they tell you to tell them this, I said, ‘Dad, it’s OK. You can go and be with mom. She’s waiting for you. Then some of your other buddies are going to want to play golf and mom will be pissed but that’s OK.’”

“And he said, ‘Yeah, I know,’” she laughed.

While Angela Hospice was there for Sue and her family, Sue has been an advocate for Angela Hospice ever since. She volunteers her time not only at the Tree of Life but at the Care Center as well, where she works with patients. She gives financial contributions to Angela Hospice when she can. She also is constantly recommending Angela Hospice to others for their loved ones, and telling people they should become volunteers.

So why do all this for Angela Hospice? That’s simple.

“They took care of dad, so why not?” she said. “There’s no way I could ever repay them for all they did.”

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