Hospice, Redwoods, and Love

By Linda Donovan, Hospice Grief Support Volunteer

When my late husband, Paul, and I decided to move here from Southern California more than 15 years ago, one of the main reasons we chose to live in Santa Cruz County was because of its natural beauty. We were mesmerized by the redwoods, drawn to them like a magnet. It was worth the drive over Highway 17 to work because at least we got to stare at the beautiful trees along the way. We never failed to appreciate their majestic beauty when we drove by them or walked through Henry Cowell Park.  We treasured the precious train rides through the redwoods that gave us an even closer look from a new perspective.

The Hospice Journey

In late 2005, Paul was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given less than six months to live. When he could no longer walk very far, I drove him by the redwoods and they always brought a smile to his face. By February 2006, we called in Hospice of Santa Cruz County to help our family with Paul’s next journey. They provided grief support for my family, medical care, pastoral care, help with all the paperwork that goes along with illness, and so much more during this very difficult time. The volunteer visitors also offered comfort and gave us much-needed help.

Hospice helped Paul have the best possible quality of life in our home before he died in 2006. I wanted to have his life continue to make a difference. If I could share his story and people could benefit from hospice, then his loss would somehow not be as painful. Paul could “live on” though me. He was a great communicator – he even proofed the eulogy I wrote for him and told me to “Irish it Up,” as he would say, by making people laugh and cry. He inspired people with his sense of humor and courage, even as he was dying.

When I was receiving grief support services, I visited the Scotts Valley hospice office on Disc Drive fairly often. When they created a memorial wall outside of the building, I immediately bought a plaque with his name. After all, the people that gave him such great services and care worked from that office. It was a nice tribute and I would stop by and visit the wall just to pay my respects.

Back to the redwoods

I recently learned that I could “memorialize” Paul with a plaque on one of the ten redwood trees in the grove outside the hospice office in Scotts Valley. It’s a lovely setting, and as I looked at the trees, one of them “called” to me. It was like Paul was saying, “Linda, remember how much I love the redwoods?”
The redwoods meant so much to him and having a tree in his honor close to an organization that gave him unsurpassed comfort and care when he needed it the most, would be just what he would have wanted. I will visit Paul’s tree often and remember the love that he brought into the lives of so many people. There are nine other trees right by his, just waiting for people to come along and put their loved ones names on the tree. Redwood trees live for thousands of years and I think that choosing one is a great way to recognize your loved one and help Hospice of Santa Cruz County continue to provide such exceptional services to the community.

On Sunday, September 15, Hospice of Santa Cruz county will hold a Memorial Wall ceremony from 2:00 – 3:30 PM at 940 Disc Drive, Scotts Valley, where you can remember and honor your loved ones. I’ll be there nodding to Paul’s plaque on the tree with the hopes that he will be joined by others sometime soon. For more information about the memorial service or about naming a redwood tree in honor of your loved one, contact Kathleen R. Hughes, Director of Development at (831) 430-3033.