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A Dying Man's Dream
It was early 2014 when Melissa Meece remembered her boyfriend, Mark Weber, first getting sick. “He had this cough that wouldn’t go away,” she said. By May, the cough became so bad that his doctor recommended more tests. An x-ray revealed a mass in Mark’s chest that would change the course of Melissa and Mark’s life forever. Mark was diagnosed with an aggressive form of germ cell cancer and he was given only a 40% chance of living another five years. Like many of the patients we meet and care for at Hospice of the Piedmont, Mark was a dying man with a lot of life left to live. He had hopes and dreams that he wanted to fulfill before his journey came to an end. For that reason, Mark made the unique decision that he preferred not to know the details of his prognosis, leaving that information and the decisions regarding his plan of care up to Melissa and his family. Instead, Mark focused on his dream to open a bar in Charlottesville. He envisioned a lively place—with lots of games, good food, and good beer—a place for people to come together and feel part of a community. After his diagnosis, Mark put all of his energy into making his dream of a reality.
While undergoing treatment for his cancer, a location opened up that Mark knew would be the perfect spot. He signed for the space and began executing plans for the bar. He completed four rounds of chemotherapy between June and August 2014, and experienced awful side effects. But, said Melissa, “he was ready for a new adventure. He needed something to look forward to, something to give him a purpose. The bar was something to fight for and to live for.” Melissa and Mark named the bar ‘Firefly’ in honor of the fire and fight that Mark had shown during his battle with cancer.
In September 2014, a migraine sent Mark to the ER and doctors discovered that his cancer had spread to his brain. “That changed everything,” Melissa said. Mark was still unaware of the progression of his disease, so Melissa decided that the best course of action was to try radiation and focus on pain management and quality of life.
While this was happening, plans were falling into place for the opening of Firefly. Melissa recalled, “at that point, the main goal was to get it open before Mark died.” Finally, on the weekend of November 21, 2014, Firefly held its grand opening. “Mark got a lot of satisfaction out of seeing the bar open and knowing he had succeeded in fulfilling his dream,” Melissa said. “He got to see his vision come to life. He had such peace knowing his legacy would live on through Firefly.” This past January, Mark’s health was deteriorating rapidly and it was clear that his struggle was nearing its end. Melissa knew that she couldn’t care for him at home, so she contacted Hospice of the Piedmont and Mark was admitted to the Hospice House. He was under Hospice of the Piedmont’s care until he passed away, with Melissa by his side, on January 21.
“We’re so grateful to have been at the Hospice House for Mark’s final days,” said Melissa. “To not have to be at home was a blessing. The Hospice House is a sacred space, a holding space for that experience of Mark’s death. I am so thankful to have been by Mark’s side, holding his hand, for his final breath.”
Without the support of donors like you, the Hospice of the Piedmont would not be able to operate the Hospice House, and Mark would not have had access to this “sacred space” as Melissa describes it. You provide comfort and care to our neighbors, like Mark, in their final days, weeks, and months, ensuring that their final days are peaceful and without pain. Thank you for your support of Hospice of the Piedmont, which enables us to envision a day when no one has to die alone or in pain.
Mark Weber passed away on January 2015.
Submitted by: Rachael Palm, Hospice of the Piedmont
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