Little Heirlooms, Lasting Legacies

by HOPE HOSPICE, INC, Dublin, CA

Message to My Son…

Since I might be going to live with God before too long, probably you will not remember a lot about me.   I hope you can get a sense of who I was.  I want to relate to you what was important to me, both what was wonderful, and what was difficult.  I want to focus on what parts of my life jump out for me, have meaning and juice and what shaped me…who I am as a person.  Overall, I want to convey the richness of my life.

Rick Harper
1944 – 2000
Patient

When Ray McFalone, an attorney, read an article about a hospice patient in the paper over his morning coffee, his immediate reaction was, “Someone should be recording this person’s story.”  Ray had been making ‘short biographies’ as a volunteer at a local senior center.  He contacted Hope Hospice to offer his help in videography as a way to ‘preserve the old stories.’  He brought a sample video for the staff to see and the idea took off.  After Ray attended the mandated volunteer hospice training, he began what would become an ongoing service for Hope Hospice patients and families for the past nine years.

Armed with great skills and newly learned knowledge about Hope Hospice’s philosophy of care, he had only one requirement:  The patient had to be able to talk.  When he got his first call from the hospice staff, he was sent to the home of a patient who was very, very ill.  His knees were knocking as he approached the front door.  He wasn’t sure what he would be facing.  And there was a major obstacle:  The patient, Rick Harper, could no longer talk. How were they going to do this?  Once Ray was welcomed into the home by Rick’s wife, he felt much better.  The family worked together with Ray and with Rick to make the video happen.  Rick used a computer to type the script and Ray shot rolling images of photographs from Rick’s life.

“Working with hospice patients was an incredible experience, “ Ray said.  “You would sit down with them, in their world of equipment and medicine.  But as soon as you turned the camera on and asked them where they were born and raised, they would begin to physically change.  Their color would get better, their demeanor brighter.”  Ray developed a list of questions to draw them out.  “What did you do for fun in the summer in an era before shopping malls and the Internet?” The reaction to the question was intriguing.  “All of sudden, in their minds, they were eight years old again.”

Alex Haley once wrote, “When an old person dies, it’s like a library has burned down.”   In the past nine years, over 100 video legacies have been documented by Hope Hospice patients offering an opportunity for families to know so much more about their loved ones.  With the passage of time, they can become a time capsule….something that answers the question,  “I wonder what he was like.” 

About Hope Hospice

Hope Hospice, a 501 ( c ) 3 non-profit organization since 1980, provides compassionate care, insight, and guidance as families navigate through the end-of-life process.  The team of professionals, many with hospice and palliative care certification, provides emotional and spiritual support and state-of-the art methods of pain and symptom control to maximize quality of life.  Hope Hospice serves families in Alamo, Blackhawk, Castro Valley, Diablo, Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Sunol and the surrounding communities in the East Bay of San Francisco. Hope Hospice is a member of NHPCO.