A majestic red-tail hawk sits on the railing surrounding the terrace of the New York City apartment Suzanne Karpas shared with her husband, Irving. Mrs. Karpas, whose husband passed away in May of 2012, says the hawk started visiting her the day after her husband’s funeral, and she has found his company very comforting. Looking out over central park, you can see hundreds, if not thousands of terraces just like theirs, she notes, but he’s chosen this one, and she believes it’s a very good sign that someone is watching over her.
At 82, Suzanne Karpas keeps a schedule that would tire a person half her age. During the week she lives in Manhattan and works at the Karpas Health Information Center that she and her husband founded in 1981 at the Beth Israel Medical Center. On Thursday afternoon, Mrs. Karpas returns to her sprawling single story home in Ridgefield – a home that Mr. Karpas loved and the place he chose to die.
“Irv loved this home,” Mrs. Karpas said. “It meant so much to us that he would be able to die in it. Doctors kept telling me it was too soon to call hospice, but I knew Irv wanted to be as comfortable as possible at home. He did not want to end up in a hospital.”
Mrs. Karpas credits her Regional Hospice nurses and social worker for what she says, “…made Irv’s death a beautiful event. They were always there when we needed them, and they made his dying wishes possible. ”
“I want to do two things every day,” Mr. Karpas told his wife of 45 years when his emphysema and heart condition finally rendered him wheelchair bound. So Mrs. Karpas planned a morning and afternoon event for every single day. “Without Regional Hospice, I could never have made his last days so happy,” she said.
A quick glance at her calendar is proof enough that Mrs. Karpas has no intention of slowing down, but she’s also equally determined to take control of her own end-of-life experience. “I can’t say enough wonderful things about (Regional) hospice,” she said. “I’m very excited about the new building, because that’s where I want to go when it’s my time. I’ll just have to hang on a little longer,” she adds with a smile that is so dazzling and full of life, you know Mrs. Karpas will be attending the Regional Hospice Home grand opening in November of 2014. Then later in the spring of 2015 she’ll be standing proudly in the lush garden beside a memorial plaque that bears her husband’s name. Then she’ll hop into her car and be whisked off to New York, where she will pour her boundless energy into one of several nonprofit organizations that exist today solely because Suzanne and Irving Karpas always believed nothing was more important than helping others.