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

For questions, please contact Molly Midgley with the Wolves and Hawks Soccer Club at