News

Inspiration amidst the chaos

Bobby Hoerner, MSW, Director of Social Services, Woldenberg Village

As we all push through our new day to day routines in this unprecedented time, it's easy to get caught up in the sadness, worry, isolation, and stress that surrounds all of our lives. Even a quick scan of the news can leave one with the impression that the darkness is overtaking the light. How come the news is so negative all the time? This brief story is a reminder that each day all throughout our community, our city, our country, and our world, there are thousands of random acts of kindness from one individual to another. Unselfish acts that portray the best of the human spirit and a reminder that even though we may feel alone, we are actually still all connected and need inspiration to navigate these waters.

Hilda McCoy had been a resident at Waldenberg Village since 2010. She suffered with dementia for much of that time and her daughter, June, was actively involved with her mother's care day to day. She visited her mother nearly every day, attended regular care plan meetings, socialized with other residents in addition to her mother when she would be on campus, and always offered her appreciation and support to the facility. As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, restrictions were imposed on visitors, and June's once regular routine to see her mother was halted. As the weeks proceeded, June tested positive for the virus as well as her husband and son. They were now in their own private struggle at home in addition to not being able to see her mother. Phone calls were made from the facility to regularly update June on Mrs. McCoy's status and, in June's words, even though she was very weak, she hung on to that information for dear life.

Weeks passed, June and her family's health started to slowly improve. Unfortunately, Mrs. McCoy's was deteriorating. She had become lethargic and was having trouble breathing. Although there are strict restrictions in place for visitors to Waldenberg Village due to the pandemic, exceptions are made when a resident is actively dying. However, given June's recent struggle with the virus, she knew she couldn't come be with her mom in her final hours. After ten years of coming regularly to see her mother, she was now unable to hold her hand and tell her goodbye when it mattered the most.
Enter nurse, Nancy Gaudet.

Nancy was taking care of Mrs. McCoy and had been calling June to keep her apprised of her mother's status. The news became grimmer and June began to cry on the phone knowing that she would never see her mother alive again. Nancy, in a remarkable act of kindness, put on her PPE, took her personal phone into Mrs. McCoy's room, and while June watched her mom on the room camera, was shocked at how labored her mother's breathing had become. Nancy held the phone up to Mrs. McCoy's ear, June spoke and noticed her mother's breathing ease. There's nothing like a child's voice to a mother's ear. June said she cried and told her mother how much she loved her. She thanked her for a wonderful life and told her it was ok to go. Being able to say those things to someone you love at the end of their life is a gift and brings solace in the days, week, and months after they're gone. It's so crucial to feel it all and set it free.

Nancy asked June if there was anything else she needed for her mother. In the absence of a priest, June asked Nancy to pray with her mother. Nancy said the "Hail Mary", wrapped a rosary in Mrs. McCoy's hands, combed her hair, wiped her face, and gave her all the dignity and love one deserves in their final moments. It was the comfort that June wanted to give in person but couldn't so it occurred through another vessel. June describes Nancy as "an angel on earth."

June had held a ten-year vigil for her mother. She encountered countless nurses, aides, dietary staff, social workers, administrators, and housekeepers at Waldenberg in the last decade. She always felt the caring spirit when she would visit her mom and she said it all culminated in those precious, final moments with her mother facilitated by Nancy. Going above and beyond a job description that transcends to a vocation and a transformative moment is the light we ALL need in the darkness.
These are the stories that need to be told. These are the stories that take place everyday that you won't see on the news with any regularity. But, they are happening. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. They are the stuff of dreams even though they are reality. These are the stories that will bind us and remind us that even though we are apart ... we are actually still together.