“Is that Maw Maw,” Kingston Hilliard asked as Lacey Norwood, a program assistant with North Oaks Hospice, knelt to give him a better view of the painted lady butterfly perched on top of its release envelope. Much to his delight, the butterfly seemed to linger before fluttering away.
The butterfly release culminated a memorial service, hosted on Aug. 18 by North Oaks Hospice, to remember 89 former patients.
Hospice is a special kind of care given in the home that provides support in a sensitive manner for patients with life-limiting illnesses. The North Oaks team focuses on the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of the patient and emphasizes the importance of the patient’s quality of life.
“People around the world see butterflies as a symbol of endurance, change, hope and life,” explains North Oaks Hospice Manager Courtney Ridgedell.
Held in the E. Brent Dufreche Conference Center on the North Oaks Medical Center campus, the annual event is a special time for families to come together through song, prayer, scripture, remembrance and fellowship, according to Sr. June Engelbrecht, bereavement counselor with North Oaks Hospice.
Along with the butterfly release, soloist Darick Selders sang “Amazing Grace” and “I’ll Fly Away,” and Chaplain Tyrus Wells and Bereavement Counselor Sr. June Engelbrecht of North Oaks Hospice read from Psalm 23 and Ecclesiastes respectively. Engelbrecht also offered words of encouragement by reading from the children’s book, Waterbugs and Dragonflies, which was written by Doris Stickney to explain the transformative state of death and dying to young children. Another highlight was the reading of each patient’s name and presentation of a framed photograph to each family of their loved one by North Oaks Hospice Nurses Trenice Coleman and Jane Frederick and Certified Nurse Assistants Carolyn Haynes and Elaine Varnado.
For the family of Margaret Dantzler, the ceremony was a time to celebrate the life of their matriarch. Those in attendance included: one of her three daughters, Betty Jones; two of her six grandchildren, Ikea Jones Hilliard and A’Trey-U Jones with Berlashiya Ruffin; and three of her thirteen great-grandchildren, Heiress Hilliard, Kingston Hilliard and Adalee Jones.
She loved that her grandson, A’Trey-U Jones, was a defensive tackle on the Louisiana State University football team. She delighted in going to his games and was known for having a room in her home decorated in purple and gold, as well as a liking for dressing in LSU’s colors.
“She was a great caregiver,” Betty Jones affirms. “Now it’s up to us to continue her legacy of caring for others.”
After her diagnosis with terminal ovarian cancer, Dantzler chose to receive care at home from North Oaks Hospice. It was a choice made without hesitation, as the family had relied upon North Oaks Hospice twice before. The first time was for Margaret’s mother-in-law, Fannie Dantzler, who succumbed to Alzheimer’s in 2008 at the age of 92; and the second was for Margaret’s husband of 47 years, Shelton Dantzler, who was lost to prostate cancer in 2012 at the age of 67.
“With my grandmother and father, the North Oaks Hospice team served them and us well – from managing not only their physical, spiritual and emotional needs, but also ours,” Betty Jones adds. “There were no ifs, ands or buts about bringing in North Oaks Hospice to care for my mother and see us through her loss.”
Margaret Dantzler was a hospice patient for two months before her passing on Nov. 20, 2017 at the age of 69.
Although Margaret’s passing was more than nine months ago, the North Oaks Hospice team continues to follow her family through the agency’s bereavement program, which provides support for one year following each patient’s passing. Engelbrecht makes routine calls on the family, and group counseling and special events, like the memorial service and memory tree during the holidays, also are offered.