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Don’s Honor Flight
Don Buska was an 86-year-old veteran of World War II, and in the final stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which makes it hard to breathe. He had been in the care of Rocky Mountain Hospice for several weeks, a hospice with which he and his family were very familiar. His wife, Mary Lou, had been on their service for 1 ½ years before she passed away in 2012.
During his wife’s illness, Don became particularly close to a Rocky Mountain Hospice social worker, Terese. She visited him regularly even after his wife died, part of the hospice’s ongoing grief support for surviving family members. She helped Don as he struggled to come to terms with both his wife’s passing and then his own approaching death.
“There is an undeniable intimacy that can develop between our patients and hospice team members as we are welcomed into their homes and lives at such a profound and sacred time,” shared Terese.
From their time together, she recognized and encouraged Don’s interest in the Honor Flight, even though he voiced misgivings about his “worthiness” to be part of it and was worried about his health.
Hospice team members extended care and reassurance. Robin, his nurse, examined his medications and made some changes that made a big difference in managing his symptoms. And Becky, Rocky Mountain’s public relations director and a Big Sky Honor Flight board member, made sure he met the respiratory therapist ahead of time who went on all of the flights to help manage the veterans on oxygen.
Don was accompanied on the flight by his son, Jeff. Neither could’ve known that the trip would represent their final days together. Don died just eight hours after returning home.
The night they returned, Jeff reflected on their experience.”We had a great time together, letting him soak in the experience and counting my blessings that I could be here with him on this journey. It was full of conversations, laughs and some tears. We learned things about our dads, and heard stories from others that have not been told for years.”
Though Jeff had been to Washington, D.C. before, he was struck by how different this trip felt. “All of the memorials take on a different meaning,” he said. “Different in a way that fills your soul.”
Thanks to the support of hospice, Jeff knew his dad had the time of his life. Just hours before he died.
To learn more about Rocky Mountain Hospice, click here.
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