For staff members at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, it was heartbreaking.
Charles was alone in his room, tears streaming down his face. He longed to see his wife of 63 years. She longed to see him. But her fear of leaving their house kept her from his side.
His wife never left their home. A native of Japan, she met Charles when he was serving at an Army hospital base in Japan. The two came together when she and a girlfriend attended a dance. Their meeting quickly turned to romance and a wedding ceremony at the embassy in Tokyo.
When Charles was discharged, the couple returned to the Dayton area where Charles was raised. He took a job with a local High School – a role he maintained until his retirement over twenty years later. They bought a house in 1959, a home kept neat as a pin by his wife. Now, after 63 years of marriage, the two were separated, and Charles lay dying.
The hospice staff was planning to honor Charles for his military service with an American Pride Veteran pinning ceremony to recognize and thank him for his military service. They wished his wife could be present, but she never left her home because she was overwhelmed by fear whenever she did so. As his condition began to decline, hospice staff members launched a full-court press to bring them together. Hospice House RN Leah Guthrie called and told his wife that time was running out for Charlie.
Hospice House coordinator Jamie Doughman enlisted a volunteer driver and the two traveled to the family home, offering door-to-door transport to hospice to see Charles. Reassuring and encouraging, the two were able to convince his wife to make the trip to see “Charlie” and be part of his recognition ceremony. Charles had become unresponsive.
The pinning ceremony was moving for everyone involved. Charles’ wife arrived in time for the event, and began speaking to her husband. “I love you my Charlie,” she said, stroking his cheek. For the first time in many hours, he struggled to open his eyes.
The romance that began a continent away continued to have the power to bring Charlie back to the love of his life to share some final precious memories.