Gary’s Story

I am sharing my story with you in the hope you will make a gift today and support Hospice of Lansing & Stoneleigh Residence, a wonderful agency that helped me so much. I am so grateful for everything they did while caring for my husband, I would shout it from the rooftops if I could! Hospice of Lansing is a gem – full of people who truly care and treat their patients like family. But as a non-profit agency, this organization could really use your support during these ever-changing times to continue their good work.

My phone rang and it was the director of the nursing home. “Susanne, she said, “We need to talk about your husband.” My heart sank. I knew what was coming. Gary was being asked to leave – again. This was the third facility where he had been placed. He had been asked to leave the previous two.

But I was wrong. “I have spoken to the doctor, and we think it is time for you to consider hospice care for Gary.”

My husband and I were high school sweethearts. Gary loved playing sports and hunting, but more than anything, he loved to fish. He didn’t like fishing from a boat. He preferred wearing waders and standing in the river. I think it was only then, that my husband felt truly at peace.

Gary and I had a good life together. After he retired, he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. He lived with his condition for years with the help of medication and support from me. Later we learned that it was more accurately known as frontotemporal dementia, an uncommon type that causes changes to personality and behavior.

If he was quiet, it would be hard for you to tell that there was anything wrong with Gary. No one saw the daily struggle it became for me to take care of him. He could not be left alone and his beloved fishing vacations to the Betsie River had to stop.

I prayed every night for guidance. The answer was always the same: stay the course.

As the days and years went by, I felt tired and exhausted down to my very core. The decision to place Gary in a nursing home was something I never wanted and had hoped to avoid.

I didn’t know what to expect when I met Gary’s hospice nurse. I poured my heart out to her about everything we had been through together for the last 15 years.

“I understand exactly what you are going through” she said. “I’m here to help Gary – and to help you.”

Relief washed over me. For the first time in a long time, I felt heard. Believed.

Gary still had bad days. He struggled to be understood and his medications were adjusted. He fell often and the nursing home staff sometimes called me to come in to help calm him down. But through it all, never once did the hospice team lose patience with him. The nurse and hospice aide were always so loving and gentle with him and Dr. LaBerge, Hospice of Lansing’s Medical Director, spoke with me many times, and answered all my questions.

I had so much support from the hospice team that I was able to go back to being his loving wife and sweetheart.We sat in his room and held hands for hours. It was the greatest gift.  One morning our hospice nurse called me and said she thought Gary’s condition was changing. Something told me to come prepared. I brought everything with me but the kitchen sink. I sat vigil in his room, while our hospice nurse came in and checked on us both, all day long. It turned out to be the day Gary was finally free

I am blessed and so very grateful to have had his passing be the most peaceful and loving experience I have ever known. Truly, my prayers were answered when Hospice of Lansing came into our lives. Your gift made this possible for Gary and me.

I know you believe deeply in the mission of hospice care for reasons of your own. I only ask that you remember and support the amazing work of Hospice of Lansing & Stoneleigh Residence during this season of giving. The grace and kindness they bring to those at the end of life must always be available to anyone in need.

Gratefully yours,

Susanne Graft

1979 Legacy Society Member