Hospice truly is a “stepping stone to eternity,” explains volunteer Ed Ruhl. His beloved wife of nearly 65 years, Pat, died at Regional Hospice and Palliative Care’s (RHPC) Center for Comfort Care and Healing in January 2018.
The couple had been introduced to Regional Hospice many years ago, when friends invited them to a fundraising breakfast in Ridgefield. Both Ed and Pat were so moved by the speeches at the breakfast, that when their friends relocated, the Ruhl’s decided to sponsor an entire table and Pat became a member of the Ridgefield Chapter Fundraising Committee. Pat enjoyed planning for the annual breakfast and assembling the baskets that were raffled off. She became friendly with the others Committee members.
Even before Ed retired, he was planning to use his financial skills and newly found “free time” to volunteer at certain institutions, and RHPC became one of them. Every Thursday for 11 years, he has been helping out in the office. He has developed friendships with the staff and says that the people drawn to hospice work are unique.
When Pat’s cancer returned after an eight-year remission, the entire Ruhl family tried to do whatever they could to help her fight it. Ed was nicknamed “The Troublemaker” by the Danbury Hospital staff due to his endless, challenging questions. By the end of 2017, when the cancer had spread to her lungs, the family had to accept that none of them could save her.
Ed knew right away that his wife should be brought to RHPC for her final time. He and his family experienced, first-hand, the advantages of hospice care. “I was determined to ensure that the end would be as dignified as possible for Pat. And it was a happy ending: It was not only dignified but loving. To see her being so well cared for was a delight. It was not painful and it was not prolonged.”
Asked what it was like to experience hospice from a family member’s point of view, Ed says “It was consoling. It was relieving for the family to know that Pat was getting the best attention possible. If you haven’t thought of volunteering or supporting Regional Hospice, you should. Just take a tour of this facility to see the bedrooms, the chapel, the library or the Healing Hearts area and scenic grounds & gardens…. This building is so wonderful— It happens from the moment you open the door. You feel the love and care from the staff, volunteers, nurses, everyone.”
And Ed reminds us that you don’t have to be at death’s door to use their services. The palliative care portion of their work is just as important. There are people available to keep you company, console you, and help with the preliminaries to your final days.
“I hope that my story will inspire others to come get to know this place, and to share their time and assets” with Regional Hospice and Palliative Care, says Ed. “Hospice is a happy ending.”
Written by Regional Hospice Volunteer Gina Cassetta