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posted: 7/22/2014 7:57 AM

Beautiful Moments for Final Farewells

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  • Louis and Ramona of Des Plaines, IL with three of their children in an early photo.Vera Family

    Louis and Ramona of Des Plaines, IL with three of their children in an early photo.Vera Family

Jeff Okazaki

Ramona and Louis were married in August of 1948. He was a Purple Heart veteran of World War II and who ended up working at the same place for over 40 years. She worked the overnight shift so she could be home for their four children during the daytime.

Their family endured perhaps greater than their fair share of tragedy. A house fire destroyed everything they had, followed by the loss of their eldest son to a separate fire several years later - he was only 30 years old. Their daughter Christine suffered many years with cancer and passed away too soon at the age of 35.

But they were always humble saying, "we all have our issues and problems," and most tellingly, their faith never wavered. Even until their deaths they stayed strong in their faith, praying the rosary every evening and going to church every Sunday. Their love for each other and the wonderful family they kept together taught their children so much about life.

When Ramona was placed into Rainbow Hospice's care she hadn't been awake for hours but when my Louis walked into her room their 60-year connection was still evident. She woke up and looked right at him. He was able to hold her hand when she took her last breath.

At the time of Ramona's passing in July of 2009, they had been married for over 60 years.

When Louis got sick, Rainbow Hospice was again called to care for him. By then he had stopped opening his eyes and was transferred to an inpatient unit, where he stayed for three days. At the end, the staff kept reassuring his family that despite his almost constant sleep, he could still hear and it was important to keep talking, playing music and being present for him.

On his last day, with eyes still closed one of his sons bent down to kiss him goodbye and he raised his fist -- their lifelong greeting. He had saved his energy for a final message.

The devotion Louis and Ramona had toward each other and their family all through their lives, highlights the purpose of hospice. Their love and their faith, especially during sickness and loss, shows who we are as people. The care that hospice offers makes beautiful moments, like holding a hand or a fist bump farewell, be as much a part of the end of our life as it is during the rest of our lives.