John Shelton may have come to Hospice Care Plus with end-stage heart disease, but, to us, his heart was perfect.
He loved life. He loved his wife. He even loved his hospice care team.
He also loved celebrating his birthday.
“As soon as one birthday passed, he would start reminding you that he had another one coming up, counting down the months,” says his wife Jane.
One reason he enjoyed celebrating each year of his life had to do with his medical history. He had his first heart attack at a young age and was diagnosed with heart disease at 39. So, to John, every single year—even every day—was a reason to celebrate.
“John loved life and lived it to its fullest . . . I think he was determined to make every day count,” says Jane.
By the time John came to us for care, he outlived his doctors’ prognosis by many years. But, at 76, his heart was very weak.
“He was the picture of health on the outside,” says Jane, “but it was his inside that was failing him. His heart disease was taking its toll.”
Weakened heart aside, John Shelton was not going to let his 76th birthday go by without a celebration.
He spoke to his hospice team about it, and told them he was determined to celebrate for fear it would be his last birthday. They supported and encouraged him, and joined him in planning the big day.
John’s traditional birthday celebration was an evening out to eat with Jane at the restaurant of his choice. This year would be no different. He told his hospice team that he wanted to go out with his wife to Red Lobster.
But, this year, he wanted a few extra people to join them. He asked his entire Hospice Care Plus team to come along.
This was no surprise to Jane. She remembers that, the previous Halloween, John wanted to make goodie baskets for each member of the hospice team who visited him regularly.
“John sat there smiling and was so excited as we worked on those baskets that night,” Jane says. “He couldn’t wait to give them to the girls.”
So, on the evening of his birthday, John and Jane drove to Red Lobster. When they came into the entrance, the party began.
There was his nurse, Norma; his chaplain, Sally; and his social worker, Jackie, all of their arms filled with helium balloons and gifts.
John, Jane, Norma, Sally, and Jackie enjoyed a full meal, with John feeling well enough to eat a wonderful dessert.
“He was smiling from ear to ear. He was so excited to get to celebrate with them,” says Jane.
A modest birthday party is a very modest bucket-list wish. But, to John, it meant everything. Thank you, John, for inviting us to celebrate with you.