On the Way to a Hospice Unit, an Ambulance Crew Takes a Woman to Visit Her Late Husband's Cross in the Park
By Judy Jenkins
Correspondent for The Gleaner newspaper, Henderson, KY
It was, perhaps, the ultimate sentimental journey. And it was a mark of deep compassion and respect by a local ambulance crew.
It happened when a lovely, 95-year-old woman named Margaret Brown Jennings was en route by ambulance to St. Anthony's Hospice's Lucy Smith King Care Center (in Henderson, Kentucky), where she would be made as comfortable as possible in her final hours.
Margaret had always made an annual visit to the cross that bore the name of her late husband, William James Jennings, who served during World War II and died in 1984. If Margaret wasn't able to move among the crosses under her own steam in the latter years, her daughter Carol would guide her in a wheelchair.
She was there every year, placing fresh flowers from a family garden at the foot of the emblem and reflecting on the many years she and William had shared. But this year, when the crosses were erected for the Memorial Day observation, Margaret was extremely ill and fragile. Congestive heart failure had taken her health and her strength.
Carol had confided to St. Anthony's Hospice nurse Lucy Williams that she deeply regretted that her mother hadn't gotten to visit that cross this year. Lucy made a request of the ambulance crew, and that's why onlookers at Central Park that Friday saw the vehicle turn into the parking area and Margaret's gurney being gently removed from the back and rolled over the grass to William's cross.
"It was so sweet," Carol said. "She got to see the flowers on his cross and she knew what was happening. She smiled. She loved Daddy so much." Those were Margaret's last fully conscious moments, and it's for certain those who were there will never forget that final tribute.
Margaret peacefully passed away the next day.
She and William met when they were teens, with Margaret first setting eyes on him at a football game. On that occasion, William sported a motoring cap, a kind of tam with material that snapped to a visor. As he always did when it came to hats, he had placed the cap at a jaunty angle and something about that placement captured Margaret's interest. Imagine her surprise when she learned that he lived right down the road from her in rural Henderson County. Evidently, William was just as smitten with Margaret and began regularly visiting her, and then wooing her. They wed in 1939 and were blessed with two children: Stephen, who died in 1994, and Carol.
She and William were devoted to each other, and that devotion was never more evident than on May 28 in Central Park. As hospice nurse Lucy Williams later said, "It was like God planned this beautiful last day for her and her family."