Flying High

Conley Murray has always loved adventure. In fact, as one of our home hospice patients, he recently talked with his Hospice Care Plus chaplain, Sally Shepherd, about the adventures in his life. At one point, Sally asked him what adventures he still has on his bucket list.

Because you never stop dreaming and hoping, even, or maybe especially, when you know you’re in your final months of life.

Mr. Murray had a quick answer.

“I’d love to go up in a single-engine plane,” he told her. “That would be so much fun.”

Sally wasted no time. She contacted Eastern Kentucky University’s aviation program. They gave her the name of one of their graduate pilots, Corey Oney. Not only did Corey agree to take Mr. Murray up in his plane, but he donated the fee. Next, Sally contacted the Central Kentucky Regional Airport in Richmond, where Corey’s flight would originate. They, too, were on board with the idea, and donated the airport’s fees.

On Tuesday, August 8, 2017, Mr. Murray’s dream came true. Corey helped him into the small craft, and they took off into a beautiful blue sky. They spent 40 minutes or more exploring Madison County from the air, including a flight over the Pinnacles in Berea.

When they returned, and after a delicate dance to help him out of the plane, Mr. Murray had an enormous smile and a few words.

“That was so much fun!” he told everyone gathered, as he distributed warm hugs to his Hospice Care Plus team, friends, and family.

His wife, Mrs. Murray, captured her feelings in a tearful moment just after takeoff, flanked by Mr. Murray’s hospice nurse, Connie, and his hospice social worker, Kristy.

“I think it’s wonderful, isn’t it? Just wonderful. That’s his dream. He’s always wanted to do this, and I’m so happy.”

Our thanks to EKU for sending us in the right direction, to the incredible Corey Oney, who was so gracious and kind, and to Central Kentucky Regional Airport. Our deepest gratitude for helping us grant another bucket-list wish and helping a special gentleman have another taste of adventure.

To Give Back

Don Ray loved music. Specifically, he loved to collect it, sing it, and entertain with it. By the time he chose hospice care, he had thousands of CDs that made up an impressive


Don with Nikki Stuart and Julie Hatfield, who helped him organize his bucket-list karaoke event.

collection for one of his favorite hobbies: karaoke.

When Sally Iseral Shepherd, his Hospice Care Plus chaplain, visited him, they often sang a song or two. In spite of end-stage lung disease, Don never stopped singing.

“Singing opened up his lungs and made him feel better,” Sally remembers. “Plus, we enjoyed it.  We had a great time singing those songs.”

During one visit, Don mentioned that he wanted to put all that music to good use. He’d decided he wanted to host a karaoke concert as a fundraiser for Hospice Care Plus.  He talked it over with Nikki Stuart, who helps with fundraising at Hospice.

“He told me he wanted to give back,” Nikki says. “He said it was important to him, and that he wanted to make sure other people could benefit from hospice the way he had. He and his wife had only one request—to do it soon, while he still felt well enough to host and sing.”

In the first week of June, Nikki and Sally shared the work of going door-to-door in Richmond, looking for a place that would allow Don to perform on short notice and without charging a fee. Unfortunately, during the summer months, most venues have entertainment scheduled weeks in advance. Although owners wanted to help, they were understandably reluctant to bump a scheduled entertainer from the schedule.

Then, Nikki walked into Purdy’s Coffee shop on Main Street in Richmond.  Owner Kristin Purdy heard the story and, without a second thought, agreed to give their next Thursday night music event over to Don.

Even though there were only a few days to advertise, dozens of friends, family, and supporters crowded Purdy’s on a beautiful June evening. Anyone lucky enough to wander in got to see Don, flushed with excitement, making the rounds to greet everyone, choosing the right music for the next karaoke performer, or—if they were truly lucky—singing a duet with his chaplain, Sally.

Don seemed to swell with pride with each dollar dropped into his fundraising jar that night.  By the end of the evening, he knew he’d accomplished his goal of helping patients and families who, like him, have more living to do but need help feeling well enough to do it.

“It was a real honor to be there and watch this dream come true for him,” says Nikki. “His face was lit up with an enormous smile all evening long. It clearly made him very happy, and that felt great for all of us who were there.”

To Make a Joyful Noise


Marlene Payne had a very specific wish. Granting that bucket-list wish would involve getting her up five flights of stairs into a bell tower, so she could play the instrument she loved one more time. It would take four men, special equipment, and the cooperation of a small college. This is a great story about a great woman, and this little video tells it well.

To Leave a Special Legacy

Jeannie Strong is a talented and creative woman with a heart for service. She helped her husband, former Richmond, Ky., Mayor Bill Strong, serve his community for decades as a city commissioner, a magistrate, and as mayor.  And, in her life away from public service, she put her creativity to work.

Jeannie’s creative touch extends to nearly everything around her: growing flowers and vegetables, upholstery, sewing, and endless crafts.

Her walls are draped with aprons she made from vintage material. She has steamer trunks


Jeannie with her daughter and some of her beautiful, hand-made stockings.

filled with pictures of blue ribbons she’s won at the Madison County Fair over the years.

So, nine months ago, when she was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer and given a prognosis of one year to live, Jeannie responded in typical fashion.  She wanted to work through it with her hands—to put them to use on a special project.

Jeannie’s immediate bucket-list wish was to make every single person in her family a Christmas stocking before she dies.

When she came to Hospice Care Plus, the team saw right away that this project was very important to her.  They saw the beautiful fabrics Jeannie was working with to make the stockings: burlap, ribbons, even an old mink stole that belonged to her mother. But they also knew that it was about much more than fabric, or even the stockings themselves.


Jeannie shows her Hospice Care Plus nurse, Junie, one of her vintage aprons.

What Jeannie Strong was working on her legacy.

The hospice team knew its job was to make sure Jeannie continued to feel well enough to finish the project.  So, together, they dealt with pain and symptom management so Jeannie could continue sewing stockings.

Every day, Jeannie walked down her narrow basement stairs to check her progress.  She was admitted to Hospice Care Plus in October. By January, Jeannie was finished with every last one.

But, she wasn’t done yet.  Her next project is a quilt for her newest great-grandchild.

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Jeannie with husand Bill Strong.

When that’s finished and Jeannie turns to her next project, we’ll be by her side the whole way, making sure she feels as well as she can for as long as possible. Because, as hospice care staff, we know that fine-tuning one’s legacy is a top bucket-list wish for patients. We also know that, in order for peace and quality of life to truly win the day, those bucket-list wishes must be met.

To Celebrate My Birthday

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.


Jane and John open cards and gifts at John’s birthday celebration with his Hospice Care Plus 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.


John and all his guests snap a quick picture during his birthday dinner.

“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.

To Salute My Grandson & Be Baptized

When we shared the story of Mr. Ramirez’s very special wish on our Facebook page, it reached nearly 400,000 people. Later, we made this simple video to use as part of our 2016 Bucket-List Challenge. Special thanks to his family, and especially his granddaughter, Blue, for sharing their memories and photos with us, and with you.

To Make Sure Sue Keeps Dancing

Charlie Conner and his wife Sue spent the winter at their Florida home for 17 years.  He loved the warm weather, dancing with his love of 52 years, and listening to her sing.

But when Charlie was diagnosed with cancer, everything changed. Winters in Florida seemed impossible.  Instead, they stayed closer to home, where Sue took wonderful care of him.  She didn’t leave Charlie’s side for four years.

As his condition worsened, Charlie told Sue he wanted to spend one more winter in

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Charlie with Sue, the love of his life.

Florida.  It wouldn’t be an easy trip, and it would take a lot of planning, but Charlie wanted to see Sue dance and sing in the Florida sun again, so they made the arrangements. In November, they returned to their Florida home and were able to stay until April.

Not long after returning to Kentucky, Charlie’s physician suggested they look into hospice care.  He was admitted to Hospice Care Plus and his hospice team began to care for him. They quickly learned that he had another wish. He and Sue had always attended both of their family reunions in the summers.  Charlie wanted to attend one more reunion.

As the July reunion drew near, Charlie’s condition worsened again.  Knowing how important it was to him to make it to the reunion, the hospice team worked diligently to bring pain and symptoms under control, making frequent visits, adjusting medications, and collaborating with his physicians. When the big day approached, Charlie felt well enough to go. He wasn’t able to stay the entire day, but he did get to make that last trip to see his family.

A month later, Charlie passed away.

That’s when Sue told us that he had one more wish, and this one only Sue could help him with.

Sue was the love of Charlie’s life.  Throughout his illness, he worked hard to prepare her for his leaving.  His final wish to Sue was that she go on living.

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Sue and Charlie surrounded by all the littles ones they love.

“He told me, ‘you love to dance and you love to sing.  When I’m gone, you go on living. Find someone to dance with and keep on singing,’” remembers Sue.

Hospice’s bereavement program stayed in touch with Sue to offer support. They were delighted to learn that Sue would, in fact, honor Charlie’s last wish.

“It’s only been a few months since Charlie passed, but I went to Florida this winter, because that’s what he would have wanted.  I’m continuing to live, just like he asked me to do.”