Nancy Isaacs, a Hospice Care Plus nurse, now retired but with 20-plus years under her belt, will never forget one patient’s bucket-list story.
“He hadn’t lived in our county very long,” remembers Nancy. “He was from a small town in eastern Kentucky, and his greatest wish was to have his body taken back there to be buried in the family cemetery.”
The patient explained to Nancy and his hospice social worker, Jennifer, that the family cemetery was the only place where he felt he’d truly be at home.
“He said all his people were buried there,” says Nancy, “and that he wanted to be there with them.”
It was also important because he and his wife had almost no money, no life insurance, and no way to pay for burial anywhere else.
They also had no money for a casket.
His preoccupation with this challenge kept him from finding peace with what was to come. So Nancy, Jennifer, and the rest of his hospice care team came up with a plan.
Jennifer enlisted her boyfriend’s help, talking him into finding wood and building a casket. Nancy and Jennifer agreed to purchase the materials to make the pillow and padding for the casket, and also to do the sewing. Family and church volunteers agreed to transport his coffin to the family cemetery.
“We told him what we were doing,” Nancy says. “He just couldn’t believe somebody would do that for him.”
For nearly four weeks, Jennifer and Nancy took their sewing machines to work with them. They left them in their cars during working hours, but brought them into their office as soon as their shift was over.
“We didn’t have any patterns or anything, just the casket measurements,” says Nancy. “We felt we needed to hurry so he could see that it was taken care of, so we sewed together most evenings after work, right there in the office.”
When the casket was complete and fitted with the padding and pillow, Nancy, Jennifer, and the rest of his team presented it to him and to his wife.
“He really loved the casket,” says Nancy. “He still couldn’t quite believe it, but he was thrilled.”
Although he died soon after, Nancy and the team noticed that a burden had been lifted and he was able to find peace.
“He was worried that he’d be a burden to his wife, because she’d have to find the money to buy a casket or pay for funeral home transportation to his family cemetery. He was finally at peace, and he needed that. He needed peace.”