Although I was excited and looking forward to a morning full of recognizing our nation’s heroes, I never imagined the everlasting impact that a seemingly simple gesture would have on me. When Veteran’s Day arrived, Ed, one of our amazing Emmett Hospice Volunteers (also a Veteran) met myself and Sandie Turner, Volunteer Coordinator/Program Representative at the office so that we could prepare for our deliveries. Our first stop was at our patient, David’s house. He was on services with us for over a year and had recently experienced a significant decline. During this most recent decline the care team grew especially close to David and his family. Upon our arrival we were told that David was still in bed sleeping and had been for the past couple of days. We contemplated waking him, but after discussing with his family we all decided that David deserved recognition for his service.
Upon entering his room with his family, we found David resting comfortably. Even after David woke he was lethargic and despite his best attempts, had difficulty speaking. I introduced everyone to David and explained our reason for visiting him; to thank him for his invaluable service to our country. At that time, Ed placed David’s card in his hand and Sandie and Gretchen, David’s daughter, assisted him in choosing a patriotic pillowcase that was carefully folded into the shape of the flag. Throughout this time it was difficult to tell if David could comprehend what was going on. As we prepared to leave Ed thanked David one last time, pulled his hand up to his forehead and saluted David. At that time, it was clear that David knew exactly what was going on and what was to be an unforgettable salute began. David slowly raised his hand to his forehead and returned salute and mouthed, “Thank you.”
Once we were done we said goodbye to David and stepped out of the room with David’s family. We were all silent and there was not a dry eye as we gathered ourselves and stood in the realization of the truly incredible moment we had just had the privilege of witnessing. As we left David’s home to make our next delivery, Ed, Sandie, and I were still in awe. We recognized the gift we had been given when we thought we were the ones that were giving gifts that day.
Just three days later we learned that David passed away. Upon hearing the news I felt sad, but I also felt grateful that we had the opportunity to thank David for his service to our country and affirm his life one final time. Thank you David, we will never forget you.
-Written By Cherise Wetzel-Burrow, LMSW, Heart ‘n Home Medical Social Services