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Caren's Story

The Impact You Can Make

Please help us make 2018 a year in which we continue to provide compassionate quality of life care and comfort for members of our community.

Take a moment to share in the story of a Hanson Hospice Center resident, Caren Adams, who was granted her final wish of witnessing her daughter’s wedding before she died of cancer.

Cara Valdes Caren Adams had been diagnosed with cancer in March 2016; aggressive treatments seemed to put her into remission. However, six months later, Caren’s cancer returned and curative care was no longer an option. Her daughter, Cara, called several facilities looking for a comfortable place her mother could spend the end of her life. Unfortunately, each facility Cara called could not accept her mother due to unavailable rooms and resources. Then Cara learned about the Merlin and Carolyn Hanson Hospice Center, and was finally told her mother would have a comfortable place to stay.

“All of my mom’s nurses were great,” said Cara. “I loved the way Karen handled her, gently lifting her up and down. When Betty sang for my mom, she said that God could see her singing and hear her words.” After warmly welcoming Caren, her care team learned that she had one wish in her final days.

“My mom wanted to be part of our wedding and walk me down the aisle. I didn’t think it would happen,” said Cara. Nate Valdes had proposed to Cara in September 2016. Shortly after the couple chose May 9, 2017 for the wedding date, they learned of Cara’s mother’s terminal cancer. By the time Caren arrived at the Hanson Hospice Center, she only had a few weeks left to live.

Nate and Cara desperately wanted to get married while Caren was still alive, but didn’t have the resources to make it happen. Rischell and Erika, Caring Circle nurses who Cara knew from church, alerted Life is Precious volunteers to Caren and Cara’s story. In just a few days, friends, volunteers, and staff had coordinated every detail of the wedding. Rischell and Erika asked Cara if she wanted to get
married in the upcoming week, telling what the volunteers had done after Caren shared her wish with them.

“I didn’t know what to say — I discussed it with Nate and we said yes on Monday,” recalls Cara. “Everyone in the facility, literally everybody, pulled together and helped, and Nate and I were married on Thursday.”

Cara asked the nurses if her mom would be strong enough to watch her try on gowns at a bridal store. Since Caren wasn’t able to leave Hanson Hospice Center, Rischell brought in wedding gowns from people who’d heard about Cara and Nate’s wedding plans. When Cara came out in the first dress, the staff woke Caren up and said, “Look at your daughter!” Caren saw Cara and they both burst into tears of joy, happy that Caren was still here to share this moment. None of the wedding dresses fit Cara, and with no time for alterations, Rischell drove Cara, her future mother-in-law, and her three bridesmaids to David’s Bridal in South Bend. They arrived just as the store was closing, and were able to find dresses for everyone that matched and fit perfectly

Thursday arrived and Cara’s mom was ready to walk her daughter down the aisle. A few nurses and Sharon, a family friend, pushed Caren’s recliner chair down the aisle as she held Cara’s hand.

“One of my favorite moments caught on video is of Mom blowing us kisses, giving her blessing and love,” said Cara.

After the ceremony and wedding celebration, a nurse shared with Cara how her wedding had also impacted other patients at Hanson Hospice Center. For just a moment, they saw the beauty of life in
front of them, and forgot their pain. “For one minute to share what we had been given felt so special,” recalls Cara.

Cara chokes up as she remembers, “People did so much for us — Rischell paid for my gown, a Tabor Hill chef who regularly volunteers at the hospice center made beautiful fruit baskets shaped like flowers and little apples shaped like doves and birds, and the cake was amazing! A staff member from Caring Circle and a nurse’s husband took pictures and videos of our wedding. When the photographer went to have the images developed and told the photo clerk our story, the business donated all the prints. I am so grateful for everything that Caring Circle, the Hanson Hospice Center, and my church did to pull together our wedding. It was such an amazing gift.”

Valdes Wedding

Caren died a week later, on Thanksgiving morning.

“Seeing my wedding was her last wish, and Nate and I are forever grateful to everyone, especially at Caring Circle and the Hanson Hospice Center, who made that special time possible,” said Cara. “I would love for others to have their last wishes granted, too.”

Each year, more people like Caren who face serious illnesses are able to spend their final days at the Merlin and Carolyn Hanson Hospice Center comfortably, creating treasured memories with their families in a home-like atmosphere. Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid don’t begin to cover all of the basic expenses, let alone the exceptional care that is provided. Your generous gift will help us provide the type of compassionate, holistic care that helps final wishes like Caren’s become a reality.

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