Shepherding Families Through Until the End

Teri holds the photo the guards took at the Angela 

Hospice Care Center. From left: Teri, Cody, Ryan, 
Rick, Kathy, and Shanna.
Rick Colter was a great dad. He was fun-loving and adored his wife Kathy, their 4 children – Ryan, Teri, Cody and Shanna and his seven – grandchildren. Rick worked as an industrial fireman at General Motors for years, was a hobbyist mechanic, and a lover of the outdoors.

The life-changer came when Rick was diagnosed with lung cancer at 54 years old. He and Kathy tried everything. There was a period of remission before the disease came back, and then the doctors told them to find a hospice.

The remarkable part of the story is not that God led Rick and Kathy to Angela Hospice, but that there they were able to find a way for Rick to see his eldest son Ryan before he died.

Ryan is an inmate in the Ionia State Prison, for a charge that he and his family maintain he is innocent of. Rick was unable to see Ryan for more than a year, and it seemed impossible to see him now when he was very ill and in hospice home care. Rick was too sick to make the trip there.

But with God, all things are possible. Angela Hospice Social Worker, Ann-Patrice Foley, and Registered Nurse, Marion Ross, sprung into action when they heard about the need for this family. They contacted the prison and made a request for Ryan to take the more than 100-mile trip to say goodbye to his father. It is not uncommon to have a prisoner make a death bed visit, but this was an unusual case because of the distance, and the fact Rick resided at home — not a place the prison could guarantee to be secure.

Ann-Patrice went to Margot Parr, CEO and President of Angela Hospice, and asked, “What can we do to help this family?”

Margot knew that she couldn’t let the Colters down. “We are an organization based on faith and faith will make this happen for the Colter family!” Margot said.

It just happens that we have a place, our Care Center, that met the prison’s standard of security. In less than 24 hours after the request, Ryan was on his way to his father’s bedside with two prison guards at his side.

At first the guards would only let Ryan into Rick’s room and not the rest of his anxious family waiting outside who had not been all together for more than 11 years. Teri, the eldest Colter girl said, “We prayed as a family for God’s grace to let us all go in the room and be together — that’s when God took over — the guards, we later found out, were Christians. Their rules were strict — but they decided to call their supervisor and he gave the go-ahead to let the entire immediate family enter the room. It was amazing, and we are blessed.”

Rick went back home after the visit and died peacefully two days later with most of his family beside him. Ryan went back to prison where he has been chosen to take part in Calvin College’s Calvin Prison Initiative that trains faithful leaders in a prison context. A partnership between Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, CPI is a unique program that provides a Christian liberal arts education to inmates at Handlon prison in Ionia, MI. Ryan hopes to become a minister.

The Meaning in the Trees

After 30 years in the community, Angela Hospice’s Tree of Life is a familiar site to many as they hurry to do their holiday shopping, or stroll through the food court at Laurel Park Place. Though at first glance it might look like just another festive mall display, the Tree of Life represents something much deeper, and more poignant: it’s an ever growing testament of the beautiful relationships we cherish – that not even death can diminish.

Then and Now: The Tree of Life in 1992 and today.
“It is nearly impossible to walk past this beautiful space without being deeply touched by the size and scale of love on display, each ornament representing the name of someone precious in the life of individuals and families in our community,” said Bob Alexander, director of development for Angela Hospice. “The ornamented evergreens themselves are a powerful reminder that our care for those we hold dear is ever-living and precious, maybe even more so as time goes on.”

The Tree of Life has proven to be a meaningful tradition year after year, both for the donors and visitors who remember their loved ones with an angel on the tree, and for the volunteers and staff who work at the display and experience the heartfelt stories so shared by visitors. To read one of those stories, or to add an angel to the tree, click here.

A Room for Brian

   Angela Hospice's donor-supported Care Center
  provided Brian with the care he needed -- and 
      brought his family peace of mind.
The Angela Hospice Care Center has always been a community-driven labor of love. From its construction in the early 1990s; to its expansion a decade and a half later; and right through to the present, where day-to-day operations are supported by the generosity of donors and friends – the Care Center is a rare and valuable community resource made possible by Angela Hospice’s caring supporters. It’s also a godsend for families like the Wilson’s.

When their son came to stay with them over Christmas last year, the brain tumor he had been determined to fight for nearly 11 years began to overcome him. At 30 years old, Brian was 6’2” and his disease had progressed to the point that he could no longer walk on his own. How would his parents take care of him in their home that was not wheelchair accessible? The Angela Hospice Care Center provided a solution. It meant Brian could get the care he needed and his parents would know that he was safe.

“That was the best place for him,” said Karen Wilson, Brian’s mother.

She and her husband, Tom, had always known their son was special. Brian was an impressive child, entering the talented and gifted program by grade three. In middle school he started playing the saxophone and excelled at it. In high school he tackled advanced placement courses. It wasn't surprising that he decided to double major when he went to U of M: saxophone performance and math. And maybe it didn't seem like a big deal when he started getting headaches. After all, he was working hard on a performance piece and taking a full load of classes.

But in April of 2006 the headaches got bad enough that Brian went to the ER. He would undergo a CT scan and MRI, then surgery the very next morning. The doctors found a mass on his brain.

When it was time for a second operation, "Brian chose to have that surgery during spring break," said Tom. "Then he went back to school on time."
Tom and Karen Wilson with their son Brian, and
daughter and son-in-law Jodi 
and Dave Guzak.

Smart and driven, Brian wasn’t about to let a brain tumor hold him back. He interned for NASA during his fourth year at the university, then after another surgery, went on to an internship at Boeing.

When two oncologists said they had exhausted their options for treatment, Brian went to the Duke University Brain Tumor Clinic and began a series of clinical trials. In 2011, he was actually able to stop all treatments. The tumor was gone.

“We were told it comes back,” Karen said. “We just wouldn’t know when.”

In the meantime, Brian had graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, having changed his major to aerospace engineering. His story of perseverance was even shared by the University president in her 2009 commencement address, as she highlighted Brian and other noted alumni who had faced adversity, including playwright Arthur Miller, and President Gerald Ford.

After graduation, Brian started his career with Boeing working on a series of exciting projects in Huntsville,  Seattle, and Patuxant River.

He then returned to Hunstsville, transferring within Boeing to work on NASA’s new Orion Space Launch System. But soon after, his tumor seemed to be returning; so Brian resumed treatment at Duke, flying to North Carolina where his parents would meet him.

By the summer of 2016, Brian’s condition had deteriorated significantly. In addition to the seizures he would have every few months, Brian was having difficulty walking, and was losing motor function in his right hand. He had even fallen at work.

“He was going through some physical therapy and the physical therapist said point blank, ‘You need to go on sick leave,’” Tom said. But Brian did not want to stop working.

Brian’s girlfriend, Therese, who also worked at Boeing, was doing all she could to take care of him. But she was going to be travelling during the holidays.

“He lived in a two-story house and our concern was him falling down those stairs when he was by himself,” Karen said.

“As it turns out…he and his girlfriend got called into personnel and they suggested he go on short-term disability, which he did,” Tom said. So Tom and Karen brought Brian home for Christmas.
Brian with his dog Riley

But while he was back in Michigan, his seizures increased – up to eight in one day. It was January 2017 when his doctors at Duke suggested they look into hospice.

“I just love Angela Hospice,” Karen said, “so that’s what I wanted. That was the best place for him. It was only 10 minutes from our home.”

Brian moved into the Angela Hospice Care Center, where he lived for 15 days. His girlfriend was able to come from Alabama to visit, and brought Brian’s dog, Riley, too.

“It was almost like he was staying alert until she came, and once she was gone, he had seen her and Riley his dog for the last time, Brian decided, ‘OK. It’s time to go,’” Tom explained.

“He had no pain at all,” Karen said.

Brian had fought hard for many years to live a normal life. He had been successful in school and his career, and had made many friends along the way.

The Wilson family keeps a binder of the kind words written about Brian, a collection of the memories and reflections shared by friends, family, and co-workers via Facebook. It’s a testament to Brian’s impact on the world, comments painting a beautiful picture of the man they called funny and wickedly smart.

“You helped me get through a lonely, rough time…and I will always appreciate it!” wrote one friend.

Brian loved spoiling his niece and nephews. From left
 Brooklyn, Andrew, and Matthew.
“You have done so much to resonate as a warm soul that brought smiles to everyone you’ve touched,” said another.

“Brian was an amazing brother to me and uncle to my children. We already miss him so much,” wrote Brian’s sister, Jodi.

Page after page of comments tell the story of who Brian was and what he meant to the people in his life. And as one tribute said: “Your family should be proud. You’ve made the world a better place.”

The Tree of Life

A reflection by Bart Wingblad

First I heard the laughter, and then I felt the children brush past me as they ran into the Sanders store, negotiating the narrow entrance with the man waiting at the counter. Their mother entered immediately behind them barking orders to “Put that back,” and “Watch your sister.” I smiled as I watched the five children, ages from about four to nine, three girls, and two boys, all dressed up for their picture with Santa.

Their excitement took me back to days long past when my sister and brother and I would walk the two blocks from Grandma’s house to visit the Sanders store – all three of us getting chocolate malts at the counter and some rock candy to bring back to Grandpa. Somehow, we hoisted ourselves to the top of the stools, which towered over all three of us. It was a different time, and it seems a hundred years ago.

I was waiting for the chocolate malt I ordered when the kids ran in. I couldn’t help but notice how happy they all seemed; without a care in the world, and about to get in line to see Santa. Outside the store, the line was long, with all the kids eagerly awaiting their turn, until it actually became their turn, and then their carefree laughter from just moments earlier was overcome by apprehension.

As I waited, a man appeared with a walker, the kind you can sit on when you need to stop and rest. He shouted out to the mother, his wife, as to why they were not yet in line as he sat on his walker and struggled to remove his jacket. It had not yet occurred to me that this was a relatively young man with a walker.

When I left the store, I walked to our Tree of Life display and took my post at the table, ready to greet anyone who might approach. As I continued to watch Santa’s line grow, I noticed that some parents seemed more excited than the kids, while others looked like they would gladly sell their kids in exchange for just a short nap. 

The line seemed to grow beyond the capacity of what Santa might be able to accommodate in just one evening, but eventually all the kids found their way to the lap of the bearded man in the red suit, large black boots, and white gloves. As each family had their turn to visit with Santa, they would exit the Santa Castle, and circle around to head off in the direction of the mall.

It was some time later that I observed the mom and her five kids heading off to the mall. As they passed our display, the kids looked me over along with the red and green angels on the table and the Christmas trees all lit up immediately behind me. It was then that I saw their dad turning the corner, trailing far behind his family. He, too, was heading off to the mall in the direction of his family, when he looked my way and stopped.

I watched him through the corner of my eye as he read our large sign. Then he turned about forty-five degrees towards the table. I stood to greet him, as I would anyone, but this encounter was to be very different. When he reached the table, only then did I notice his oxygen nasal cannula, and his need for the walker.

He looked at me, hesitated, and then began to speak. His first words to me were, “I have ALS. They gave me nine months. I have five kids.”

I spoke with him just briefly, but it seemed much longer. I said all the right things. I chose my words carefully, and they were sincere and heartfelt.

As the man left, I felt his comfort in being able to share; being able to express his fear; his anger; his hope -- all to a stranger who would not judge. As I watched him slowly move away, disappearing into the Christmas crowd, I thought of his kids, and how this night might very well become one of their most treasured memories.  I softly whispered a prayer that this night not be what I fear may be the happiest they’ll ever know.  I wish and hope for them to know countless nights, each being ever more hopeful, special, and beautiful than this.

Submitted by a very humbled Angela Hospice Volunteer
December 2016

It's Giving Tuesday!

As the holiday shopping season kicks off, it’s time to remind ourselves that it really is better to give than to receive. How will you celebrate #GivingTuesday?

If you’re looking for inspiration on this international day of giving, here are a few ideas on how you can show your giving spirit:
  • Take an #UNselfie. Show the world why Angela Hospice means so much to you. Download this flyer and post it on social media. Be sure to tag us on Facebook and Twitter!
  • Give your time. Help out a neighbor in need or volunteer
  • Donate to your favorite charity, like Angela Hospice, which you can donate to here. 
  • Write a positive review. Organizations like ours depend on your kind words to help spread the word about what we do. Write a review about Angela Hospice. 
Those are just a few ideas for what you could do on #GivingTuesday! Comment below to let us know how you plan on participating!

If you have any questions, please contact our Development Office at (734) 464-7810.

About Giving Tuesday
92Y, a cultural center in New York City, conceptualized #GivingTuesday as a new way of linking individuals and causes to strengthen communities and encourage giving. In 2016, the fifth year of #GivingTuesday, millions of people in 98 countries came together to give back and support the causes they believe in. Over $177-million was raised online to benefit a tremendously broad range of organizations, and much more was given in volunteer hours, donations of food and clothing, and acts of kindness.

AVA eases burdens for hospice patients

Angela Hospice patient Joanne Savage relaxing at home.
When Angela Hospice launched its telehospice program last January, the staff knew there would be benefits for patients, like faster response times and being able to see a nurse’s friendly face when getting help with their concerns. But as the program has evolved, we’ve discovered even more ways this innovative program is making life easier for hospice patients.

Joanne Savage could tell you. Widowed six years ago, she’s raising three boys on her own. And she’s been fighting her own battle with cancer for 11 years. Now on Angela Hospice’s home care program, one of the highlights for Joanne is AVA (Angela’s Virtual Assist), the tablet device that allows Joanne to connect to telehospice services and video chat. 

“It makes a difference,” Joanne said, “Because I know that I can call anytime and someone will be there.”

Joanne was diagnosed with peritoneal carcinoma, a rare form of cancer, at the age of 40. She was actually in remission for four years, but there were also surgeries, three years of trying different types of chemo, then radiation, until eventually her doctors told her they had tried all they could.

In July she signed on with Angela Hospice. Thanks to her strong faith, Joanne seems to be at peace with what is in store for her, but she can’t help worrying about her sons.

“My time is ticking because there’s only so much they can do. And we just wait. And that’s really hard. Because I get that look from the boys every day. Is today the day? Are you gonna pass away today? It’s put a lot of stress on all of us,” Joanne said.

Her daily struggles would seem overwhelming to many people, but they’re made a little easier through the help of family, friends, and her support system at NorthRidge Church. Her Angela Hospice team is also a part of that supportive network, including AVA.

And when AVA asks Joanne on Thursdays about her weekend supplies, it’s one less thing she has to worry about.

“If I need any supplies or anything like that…I’ll just hit yes and within minutes after I said that, I have someone calling and ordering me what I need,” Joanne said. “It’s incredible.”

It might seem like a simple thing, but Joanne is someone who sees the silver lining. She has an inspiring outlook, despite all the challenges she faces.

One of the many beautiful portraits of Joanne's 
sons that hangs in her home. Colin, Jack, and 
Nolan are all teenagers now. She’s begun the 
process of saying goodbye, making sure they know 
how much she loves them, how they make her 
proud, and all the qualities she admires in them.
“You know I always tell my kids, I have a very strong faith in God, and God can turn any situation into a good one. And he did. Because I got in with Angela Hospice, and oh my gosh -- it’s wonderful….it couldn’t have been a better blessing,” Joanne said.

In addition to having the AVA device there, she’s been grateful for the help with her pain, the emotional support, and the volunteer who comes every Wednesday to help with housekeeping. Her sons are a big help too. She says they’re very supportive. They help out around the house too, and Nolan -- her youngest, just 13 years old -- is the family chef.

“They’re all great kids,” Joanne said. “I love them to death. And that’s why I fight so hard to be here.”

Her best friend Michelle has agreed to take care of the boys, but the difficult thing right now is for Joanne to think of leaving them.

“We just put our faith in God and know that God can do anything. And maybe it’s time for me, you know? I guess at the right time he’ll call me home and I’ll go,” Joanne said. “I’ll just miss the boys.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Ingrid Lasley

Name: Ingrid Lasley

How long have you been a volunteer?
I started volunteering about 2 ½ years ago.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
I cover the receptionist desk for lunch hours, which includes telephone calls. I have covered Tree of Life shifts for the past 2 years and plan to volunteer again this season. I also have been involved in numerous mailings and last year’s Walk of Remembrance.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I stopped working a few years ago and decided I could use my spare time best by volunteering. I am enjoying every minute!

Why Angela Hospice?
Ingrid with fellow volunteer Geri Orlowski

My mother passed away in 2012 in Buffalo, NY, and after witnessing the treatment my mother received at a hospice facility there, I knew I wanted to be part of such a kind and caring group.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I have enjoyed meeting so many people who have demonstrated so many ways one can give. The employees and volunteers at Angela Hospice are truly special people, and I am honored and humbled to be part of such a great organization.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
Working the receptionist desk for the lunch hour has allowed me to experience so many different aspects of how Angela Hospice operates. The most outstanding is the continued compassion of every employee and volunteer that I have come in contact with.

Freezing Fun Charity Run

Are you ready for a challenge? Then prepare to get chilly at the Freezing Fun Charity Run on December 16.

The Wolves and Hawks Soccer Club has chosen Angela Hospice and the Salvation Army as the beneficiaries of their warm-hearted, cold-weather run/walk taking place at Schoolcraft College. Choose from the 1.6-mile route or take on the full 5K!

The race will begin at 9 a.m. at the St. Joe’s Sports Dome at Schoolcraft College, then continue around the rest of the campus. Individuals can register for $22, or a family of 3 or more can register for $50 per family.

Online registration is available here

Volunteer Spotlight: Marilyn Ling

Name:  Marilyn Ling

How long have you been a volunteer? Over 10 years

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
I sing in the choir. We meet the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. We try to sing patriotic songs, and uplifting music for the patients and their friends and family that come to visit. I also spend time helping out with the mailings. In the past, I’ve helped out with the desserts at the volunteer dinner. I did that for a couple years.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
Both my parents were in hospice care, and I just wanted to give back. My mom was in hospice around 25 years ago. Back then the whole concept of hospice was a little new, but our family really embraced it. I wanted to get involved and volunteer, and that lead me to Angela Hospice.

Why Angela Hospice?
I chose Angela Hospice because I am a resident of Livonia.

Marilyn Ling and fellow volunteer Kathryn Trudeau
singing in the Care Center as part of the
Angela Hospice choir.
What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I really enjoy the choir. People really like the music and sometimes patients and their families join in and sing with us. We will often ask the patients if they have a favorite song, and we will add that to our music book. Especially the men and women who have done military service, we will try and play their armed service song, and interact with them that way.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
I also used to sell raffle tickets, in the summer time, for the Light Up a Life Gala. One day it had started to rain so we had decided to pack up and I looked over and there was a lady standing there. I asked her if there was anything I could help her with before we pack up. She asked what we were doing and I told her that we were with Angela Hospice and we were conducting a fundraiser. She went on to say that her son had just passed away this morning from throat cancer and that she just didn’t know what to do. So I gave her the number to our bereavement program so she could talk to somebody. I thought, now this is how you can really give back to the community and help people out. I think the main thing that people don’t always realize is that at Angela there is no charge for bereavement services or to talk to a social worker. Angela has so many amazing programs to help families get through these difficult times.  

Volunteer Harvey Fox pays I.T. forward

Even when you’ve been volunteering your whole adult life, you never quite know what will come next. Just ask Harvey Fox, who’s been an Angela Hospice volunteer since 2014, and has volunteered at other organizations for years as well. He went through Angela Hospice’s volunteer training thinking he would help by visiting with patients, or maybe working in maintenance or hospitality – but he ended up assisting in Information Technology.

Perhaps it’s not too surprising, considering Harv spent 28 years as a software developer, then another 16 years teaching computer classes. But he hadn’t imagined all the ways his I.T. skills would benefit Angela Hospice.

“I only work four or so hours a week in the office, but I see that my time has really helped in many concrete ways,” said Harv.

Harv has helped in multiple departments, developing user-friendly tools to help staff work more efficiently. And as much as the employees he helps are eager to express their gratitude to him, Harvey says it’s rewarding for him as well.

“It has truly been a blessing for me to tap into my IT skills and knowledge once again,” Harv said. In fact, he’s found that volunteering in general has always been rewarding for him.

“I must admit that as a dedicated volunteer, I have gained more than I have given,” Harv said. And one of those gifts changed his life forever.

“The most valuable gift I received from volunteering is meeting my wife when we were serving at Providence Hospital,” he said. The two celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary in July.

Harvey Fox helps Angela Hospice with a variety of 

projects. He said, "I remember being overjoyed
someone actually offered me the opportunity 

to once 

apply my experience and knowledge
within the 
field of information technology 


good of the organization."
So what motivated Harv to choose Angela Hospice as the recipient of his time and talents?

“In a word…Mission! I believe that human life is the most precious thing on Earth,” Harv said. And this is something he sees reflected in the way Angela Hospice’s caring mission is enacted each day. He also appreciates the “family-like” atmosphere he sees in the organization.

“Working for Angela Hospice,” Harv said, “and being a member of such a loving ‘family,’ is not only a wonderful experience that brings me great joy, but a real energizer for my soul!”

In addition to Angela Hospice and Providence Hospital, Harv’s volunteer activities over the years have included projects for the Catholic Church, St. Vincent de Paul, and Schoolcraft College, among others.

“Volunteering has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had,” he said. “Volunteering is a way for me to give back to the community, in some small way, what others have done for me ‘in big ways’ during my lifetime. In fact, I plan on continuing to volunteer as long as I have good physical health and my mind can still function logically.”

And for all that time, Angela Hospice will be grateful for his service.

Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Ann Desjarlais

Name: Mary Ann Desjarlais

How long have you been a volunteer?
I have been a volunteer for 12 years

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
I help with fundraisers, make deliveries to patients’ homes, work on mailings, and do home visits and respite care.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I became a volunteer when I retired. I wanted to do something worthwhile with my time.

Why Angela Hospice?
I became familiar with Angela Hospice when my dad was there. I was inspired after seeing the level of care he received.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
I love meeting the people I come in contact with. The patients and families are so grateful.

Mary Ann sells raffle tickets at many of Angela  
Hospice's events.
What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
I was doing respite care with a patient that had Alzheimer's. She never showed any recognition toward her husband. One day, her husband came home and sat next to her. She looked at him with recognition in her eyes. She put her head on his shoulders and the two of them just sat there and enjoyed the moment. It was such a beautiful thing to see.

Employee Spotlight: Joan Lee

Name, title: Joan Lee, Bereavement Social Worker

How long have you worked here?
23 years.

What made you decide to work here?
I wanted to work at a place that provided very dedicated care and I was in the process of switching jobs. I drove by Angela Hospice before they even had the driveway in and I said, “hospice.” I had also just lost my 46-year-old dear friend. I also had a lot of losses in my life so I had experience with death.

So as I passed Angela Hospice I thought, “Now that would be a place where there would be dedicated people working…it would be more like a vocation.”

Sister Giovanni and two other social workers interviewed me, and I was offered the position.

How had you heard of Angela Hospice?
I had never heard of it before but I was just driving by and the whole concept of hospice – and after the death of my friend hospice was already in my head – so when I saw the word “hospice” I thought, “I think I can do that.”

So I asked the mother of the dear friend who had died – who had known me since I was 16 – I asked her what she thought, whether I could do that type of work, and another best friend who would always tell me the truth, and they both said yes. Then I applied.

What’s a typical day like for you?
We pretty much see clients one after the other. We also have the support groups and we have to do phone work assessments. So we’re pretty busy. That’s pretty much what we do.

What is your favorite part about working at Angela Hospice?
My favorite part is the people. Not only my clients, who are very special and very dear – and this is a very gratifying job that we have here in bereavement. It’s very fulfilling because we’re able to guide and companion these people through this very terrible time in their lives to the point where they can live happily again. I think that’s very gratifying.

But beyond that, the people who work here are very similar in nature. Their goal is to provide dedicated care and everybody here is pretty doggone nice. That’s the best part about Angela Hospice.

Joan with fellow bereavement team members. 
What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Angela Hospice?
There are a lot of special moments where you meet people and help them. I don’t know if I have one special moment because there are so many moments with special people who have died – the first three years I worked here I did home care and then I moved into the Bereavement Department.

There was one very special patient who really died with a smile on her face and couldn’t wait to go to Jesus. I never saw that before and I’ve never seen it after. Every day she would say to her kids who surrounded her, “Maybe today I’ll go to Jesus.” When she did, she had a beautiful rosy face and a smile. It was beautiful. 


A new way to super-charge your Walk of Remembrance

Everydayhero is a new tool that Walk of Remembrance participants can use to make an even bigger impact on Angela Hospice and the community.

If you are walking in remembrance of a loved one, invite others to join you as virtual team members! Just visit our page on Everydayhero and click the green “Start Fundraising” button:

The Mimi's Little Sweethearts team at the 2016 Walk
of Remembrance.
In under five minutes, you’ll be able to customize your own team fundraiser page and easily share it with family, friends, and coworkers on social media. 

For more on the Walk Remembrance and how to start a team, visit our event page here.

Volunteer Spotlight: Deborah Diehr

Deborah Diehr at Balanced Life Massage Studio in Westland, Michigan.
“Whenever someone talks about hospice, I always mention that I am a volunteer for Angela,” said Deborah Diehr, a four year Angela Hospice volunteer.

When Debbie isn’t working full time for a durable medical equipment company, she is busy owning and managing her own massage business at Balanced Life Massage Studio in Westland, Michigan.

Her background in massage therapy has made her a treasured volunteer here at Angela Hospice. Debbie volunteers in the Care Center, but spends most of her time visiting patients’ homes to give massages.

For Debbie, knowing she is making a difference in someone's final journey, and being able to give them comfort and peace, is what she cherishes most about volunteering.

As for the most challenging part? “Not being able to get to every patient Lora sends to me.”

With working a full time job and running her own business, Debbie has many demands on her time. “I can only do what I can, but I feel bad that I can't do more,” said Debbie, a mother of four and grandmother of eight, who is always eager to help others.

Debbie was introduced to Angela Hospice during her mom’s passing, after learning about Angela through a friend.

“We contacted Angela and they sent a nurse out to do her initial assessment, and broke the news to us that she only had days to live,” Debbie said.

Although her mother passed away just a week later, Angela offered bereavement services to Debbie and that left a big impression.

“When I went to massage school, Teri, the Director of Volunteer Services for Angela Hospice, gave a presentation to our class, and I knew that I needed to pursue the volunteer program at Angela,” Debbie said.

Teri’s presentation wasn’t the only event that led to Debbie’s decision to sign up for the volunteer classes.

“When my dad was going through his last days, I was going to massage school at the same time, and I gave my dad a massage just before he passed away,” Debbie said.

This too inspired Debbie to volunteer; she wanted to be able to use her skills to help others like her dad. Massage therapy can benefit hospice patients not only physically, but psychologically as well. 

For Debbie, finding out that one of her patients actually knew her dad made it all come full circle.

“They worked together years ago,” she said. “It made me realize just how small our world really is.”

For more information about Angela Hospice’s volunteer program, visit

Trek of a Lifetime

Jennifer Lake at age 23, just a few
years before her first seizure.
You could say Jennifer Lake was a Trekkie since birth. She grew up watching Star Trek and knew all the episodes, all the characters.

“She loved science fiction,” said her mother, Marilyn Spence, who took Jennifer to see her first sci-fi movie as a child. “Books, movies…that’s how she got started.”

So in August 2015, when Jennifer booked two tickets for a Star Trek cruise that would set sail from Miami in March 2017 – she had a lot of time to build up excitement. Only things didn’t really go as planned.

Jennifer had a brain tumor. In fact, she had been fighting tumors, undergoing surgery after surgery, radiation, and chemo, in a frustrating loop for 19 years. What started with a seizure when she was 26 years old, eventually evolved into a glioblastoma multiforme grade 4, the worst kind of brain tumor. But Jennifer was determined. She may have had a wound on her skull and enough medications to cover the dining room table, but she was definitely going on that cruise to fulfill her Star Trek dream.

She had made plans to go with her friend Donna. They had been neighbors back when Jennifer lived in Grand Rapids, before her husband decided he wanted a divorce. It was just 4 months into their marriage that Jennifer had first gotten sick, and 17 years later, her husband had had enough of her illness.

That’s when Jennifer moved to metro-Detroit. She was proud to have her own condo, where she could be independent. It was just her and her little dog, Cricket. But too soon after that, Jennifer’s disease escalated. She had to move in with her mother and stepfather so they could care for her. Despite it all though, Jennifer’s spirits were pretty high.

“She was really a brave, brave person, and usually in a fairly good mood – except when I tried to mother her,” Marilyn laughed.

There were some struggles as Jennifer tried to maintain her independence, despite her ever increasing physical challenges. She had to use a wheelchair and she needed a lot more assistance than she was used to.

That’s why it was so surprising when the morning she was set to embark on her cruise, Jennifer got herself up and dressed, and set the table for breakfast.

“I was blown off my feet when I walked in...and there was Jennifer sitting on the sofa at four o’clock in the morning, all dressed by herself,” Marilyn said.

But preparing for the cruise wasn’t all smooth sailing. It took a lot of coordination, and Jennifer’s Angela Hospice Home Care team was happy to help.

“They came and reviewed all her medications with us, made sure we had brand new medications, unopened to take with us to get through customs,” Marilyn said. “Yes, they spent an awful lot of time helping us get prepared, ordering a new wheelchair and all this.”

When all was said and done, they had a whole suitcase full of supplies.

Teresea Zarza, Jennifer’s nurse practitioner from Angela Hospice, also made a very important suggestion: that Marilyn and her husband Glenn go with Jennifer and her friend on the trip. At first it seemed impossible – the cruise had been sold out since 2015. And Jennifer really wanted to be independent. But Teresea insisted that Marilyn and Glenn go too. Jennifer’s hospice nurse even offered to watch their dog so they could go with Jennifer.

Marilyn called the cruise line and explained the situation, how sick her daughter was, and all the supplies she’d need.

“I thought, ‘Well, what are the chances of us getting a cabin?’” Marilyn said. “And they had a cancellation…a cancellation on a handicap room.”

Initially Marilyn and Glenn really hadn’t wanted to go, and they didn’t want Jennifer to go either.
They knew it would be very hard for her physically. They were worried about her. And they were worried Jennifer’s friend would be overwhelmed by how much care Jennifer needed – that she didn’t really understand how sick Jennifer had gotten.

But with the help of her Angela Hospice team, it was settled. This trip Jennifer had been waiting for for nearly two years was about to happen. And after a series of losses that had pummelled her over the past three years – losing her husband, her condo, her health, and her dog Cricket who passed just before Jennifer got really sick – this trip was something just for her.

From left: Jennifer, Glenn, William Shatner, Marilyn, and Donna.
“The day we were leaving we were all in the car and I was sitting next to [Jennifer] in the back seat and she was crying. I said, ‘Why are you crying?’ And she said, ‘I’m so happy we are going,’” Marilyn recalled.

The highlight of the cruise was when Jennifer met William Shatner.

“She was so excited. She went to shake his hand. She was the first one in line,” Marilyn said.

Unfortunately, Jennifer couldn’t go on any of the excursions at the stops, and her physical limitations prevented her from participating in a lot of activities. But she had fun on the ship, enjoying meals with her friend, scoping out all the extravagant costumes, and visiting the gift shop.

But by the time they got back home, Jennifer was not doing well at all.

“That first night we got home, I called at about two in the morning because Jennifer was in so much pain, and somebody was out within an hour and taking action, saying, ‘She needs a bed at the [Angela Hospice Care Center]....She has got to get a bed.”

Early that morning, there was a room ready for Jennifer at the Care Center. Then 27 hours later, Jennifer passed away peacefully, while Marilyn and Glenn were in the room with her. She was just 44 years old.

Marilyn and Glenn were grateful for the care Jennifer received, and thankful that Jennifer made the decision to sign on early.

“We were encouraged to use hospice sooner because I guess a lot of people wait… I’m glad we did, because on your own, not knowing, there is only so much you can do,” she said

Marilyn said that right after Jennifer died, her nurse and nurse practitioner came to the Care Center to say goodbye. She was impressed because she knew they worked in home care and weren’t usually in the center. But Jennifer had made an impression on her hospice team.

Perhaps it’s because Jennifer went through so many trials and tribulations – any single one of which could legitimately be called devastating – but she wouldn’t let them bring her down. She kept her spirits up and her hopes high.

“She had a very good attitude – she was really blessed,” Marilyn said. And she summed up her daughter in one word, repeated for the emphasis Jennifer warranted: “She was amazing, AMAZING.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Christine Henzi

Christine Henzi

How long have you been a volunteer?
I have been a volunteer since August of 2012.

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
For the past 5 years I have been a home care volunteer. I have assisted patients and their families in many different ways including visiting with patients, sitting with patients while family goes out, helping with light housekeeping, even walking dogs. It really varies with each patient and their needs. Additionally, for the past year, I have been helping in the Spiritual Care Center as clerical support.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
Like so many of our volunteers, I had a family member who was a patient. I was so impressed with the care and compassion shown that I knew I wanted to be a part of Angela Hospice. I also have a background in medicine as a Physician Assistant and felt like my knowledge and experience would be valuable.
As a home care volunteer, Christine works with both adult and 

pediatric patients.

Why Angela Hospice?
Angela Hospice came highly recommended to our family from our physician. I like that Angela is Christian-based, not-for-profit, with such a wide variety of support for patients and families.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
The connections made with patients and being able to offer them help at such a difficult time. I have known some amazing patients.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
My favorite part of volunteering is by far the wonderful patients I have met.

Marlis's Story: Faith for the Journey

Marlis Brady has a beautiful accent. There’s something quite elegant in the way she pronounces her consonants; and the rhythm of her voice, as it subtly rises and falls, produces an enchanting, peaceful effect – even as she describes the trials she’s faced in her 88 years.

Marlis in one of her favorite spots, the back sun porch.
Marlis grew up in the Rhine Main Valley in Germany during World War II, where hardship was not uncommon.

“You couldn’t get anything new. We grew up always saving things, repairing things,” Marlis explained. “I remember one winter I froze my toes because we didn’t have regular shoes… I was standing in line for milk too long.”

Food was scarce for families like hers, who didn’t have a farm of their own. But she and her brother helped at other farms during the potato harvest. It meant a sandwich each day for lunch, and an extra sack of potatoes at the end of the year. It was a way to help their family, before Marlis started to work for the occupying American forces after the war.

John and Marlis Brady
on their wedding day,
September 27, 1952.
The couple married
 in Windsor before
moving to Detroit.
“When I turned 18, I could actually get a good job because I could work as an interpreter,” Marlis said. “Then I got a real dinner every day and so that was the way to go. It was what we all looked for, really.”

Then as soon as Marlis turned 21 – well, technically, it was the day after – she filed immigration papers for Canada. It took almost two years to get the papers, and in the meantime, she met her husband, John, there in Germany. (“In fact our first date was going to church, really funny,” Marlis recalled.)

At 22, Marlis emigrated across the Atlantic to Canada. John, born in the Bronx but raised in London and Dublin, later followed, and the two were married. But they knew Detroit was where the jobs were, so the Motor City was their destination.

Marlis and John with all five
of their children.
Now one thing you should know about Marlis is that she is a remarkable woman. Consider that she earned her Master’s degree while she had five little kids at home. Or that she and John spent years sailing the Eastern Seaboard after retiring from the Old Shillelagh bar downtown – just one of the businesses they ran. Marlis is also remarkable as a devoted supporter of Angela Hospice, and has faithfully sent a donation every month over the last few years. Having given a total of 54 donations in support of patients and their families, her commitment to supporting Angela Hospice began in 2009, when she lost her son, John, Jr. She and her husband had enlisted Angela Hospice to help care for him in their home, as he battled lung cancer.

“We were very pleased how my son was being taken care of,” said Marlis. “His sister who lived in Vermont, she came and worked from home and she was his caregiver. It was actually all the sisters who came and helped him.”

Marlis Brady said she’s feeling comfortable
these days thanks to her hospice team. Here she
is pictured with her daughter Dorinda, twin
great-granddaughters Kayla and Chloe, and
Dorinda’s poodle Darby.
John was just 54 years old when he died. Sadly, just five years later, another of Marlis’s children passed away – her daughter Barbara.

Now Marlis faces the final round in her own battle with cancer. But she’s at peace with her decision to forgo radiation and the “three or four miserable months” it might bring.

She’s happy with her choice to get home care from Angela Hospice in her daughter Dorinda’s home, and she’s grateful she started using hospice early on.

“It’s wonderful,” Marlis said. “They always take very good care of me and I’m always very comfortable.”

Her nurse Jane Vass regularly comes to check on her, make sure her symptoms are managed, and that she is not in pain.

“Jane convinced me that it’s OK to take pain medicine,” Marlis explained. “You know, I grew up in the ‘you grin and bear it’ type of mentality. But she says I don’t have to grin and bear it, you can be comfortable. And that’s what I’ve been doing. She convinced me of that.”

Jane Vass is Marlis's nurse. "It's an honor to take
care of people at this stage of their lives," Jane said.
"I have enjoyed my time with Marlis and listening to
her stories."
Marlis said she’s been feeling much better now on a low dose of morphine, and it’s allowed her to spend quality time with her daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, even if it’s hard for them to tell sometimes that she’s sick. But Marlis knows her time is limited, and it’s something she’s come to terms with, thanks to her Catholic faith.

“I know where I am going,” Marlis said. “Jesus has my back and I ask Him every day to take my hand and lead me.”

As she approaches the end of her life, Marlis is grateful to be comfortable, and to know she’ll once again see the son, daughter, and husband she lost.

“My husband died last year August, so I have three people waiting for me,” Marlis said. “I have my faith, and because of that I know where I am going.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Larry Janowski

Name: Lawrence (Larry) Janowski

How long have you been a volunteer?
Five years

What areas do you work in/what sort of tasks do you do as a volunteer?
I work in the patient care facility and assist in fundraising for Angela hospice. Every other Saturday during the summer, I barbecue for patients and their families. On Sunday mornings, I volunteer with the snack cart and visit with families and patients if they are up to it. During the year, I help with various fundraisers, such as: the Tree of Life, golf outings, Walk of Remembrance, and help as needed setting up other fundraisers.

What made you decide to become a volunteer?
I had a spiritual encounter. Angela Hospice helped my wife’s family with my mother-in-law’s passing. The nurses from home care helped our family as needed keeping the family together and making sure my mother-in-law did not suffer and could spend her remaining time sharing family memories.While driving home from work, I passed Angela Hospice and was wondering how I could give back to my community. 

Larry and his wife Carol at Angela Hospice's annual Light Up a Life Gala.

Why Angela Hospice?
I heard a small voice telling me to help others. Angela Hospice was a perfect fit.

What is your favorite part about volunteering?
Helping others and giving back to my community.

What is one of your favorite stories or memories from volunteering?
While barbecuing one Saturday afternoon, a patient asked me to give him the best hot dog ever and to make it extremely well done. I did my best to honor his request and the patient sat nearby me. When he was finished he came back, thanked me, and told me the hot dog was the best he ever had. A few days later he passed away, but he really enjoyed the hot dog! My greatest reward is helping others and raising money for a great organization.