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A Final Journey Home

Billy Meade had a request.

Meade, a 58-year-old patient of Bluegrass Hospice Care in Covington, Kentucky told social worker Morgan Abbatiello that he wanted to make one final visit to his parents’ gravesite in the Hazard area, a nearly 200-mile trip. What happened next is a heartwarming story of generous, caring volunteers working together.

Kimberly Heestand, community engagement coordinator in Northern Kentucky, put out the call to her volunteers, and prayed for a response. 

“Asking volunteers for 6 to 8 hours of their day to drive the distance for this request was a lot,” said Heestand.

Before long, Tana Casper, a retired vice president of UC Health, stepped up and offered to take Billy to Hazard.

“One thing I’m loving about being retired is that it provides you with the time for meaningful volunteer work and the ability to do things for others. I know what a trip like this would have meant to me if the situation was reversed and it was worth every minute in the car to be able to make it happen for someone else,” said Casper, who has been a pet therapy volunteer with her dog “Toby” for more than a year.

Meanwhile, Heestand’s counterpart in Hazard, Kelli Callihan, was busy looking for someone to take Billy to the graveside once he arrived. Amos and Deborah Hamblin were happy to help – even picking up white roses for Billy to leave at his parents’ final resting place.

Hazard nurse supervisor Donna Smith coordinated with nurse Megan Sullivan in Northern Kentucky to arrange for Billy to spend the night at the Greg and Noreen Wells Hospice Care Center.

Another volunteer, Angela Crawford, an assistant professor at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, offered to drive Billy back home to Covington. 

Billy had gotten his wish, thanks to what Heestand called “a beautiful collaboration” between the Northern Kentucky and Hazard sites.

“I am always amazed by the kindness, compassion and generosity of our volunteers. They truly are wonderful gifts to our patients, families, agency and staff. This trip speaks volumes to the lengths Bluegrass Care Navigators will go to when serving our patients,” said Heestand.

Crawford believes her trip with Billy back to Northern Kentucky was part of her mission in life.

“As a hospice volunteer I have a wonderful opportunity to serve people who are experiencing their final journey here on earth. I just don’t think patients realize how much they also serve us as volunteers,” said Crawford, who has been an 11th Hour volunteer for more than three years. 11th Hour volunteers sit with actively dying patients who have no loved ones nearby.

“During the car ride back I learned about Billy and his life. We talked for hours, having a real conversation. Think about how often we don’t even have real conversations with the people closest to us in our lives. Each of us shared parts of our stories with one another. We talked about what we find meaningful in life. It felt like fate had brought us together. We decided during our drive that we were meant to be in that car and have this conversation,” she said.

Thanks to the generosity and compassion of volunteers, Billy’s simple request – one final visit, white roses in hand – touched so many other lives. If you’d like to become a volunteer and help make moments like this possible for our patients, call us today at 855.492.0812.

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