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A Birthday Celebration to Never Forget

Sue Kinderman had recently become a volunteer for Heartland Hospice Serving the Twin Cities. She signed up to volunteer in hopes of making a difference in the lives of others.  What she didn't anticipate was the profound impact that being a volunteer and interacting with hospice patients and their loved ones would make in her life. One particular event she recently experienced with a patient, Cindy, and her husband, Tim, was one that Sue will never forget.

“When Cindy turned sixty, she knew this would be her last birthday celebration, so she made a final wish: to surround herself with family and friends. Knowing her fondness for Elvis, Cindy’s brother agreed to play the part of the famous singer. Tim also had something special in mind. After forty years of marriage, he and Cindy, joined by their beloved dog, Dolly, would renew their wedding vows during the party.”

“While Tim called and invited their family and friends, Karah, a Heartland Hospice Social Worker, quickly arranged the party details. Several other Heartland members eagerly joined in to help fulfill the wish. Spiritual Care Coordinator, Bob, would perform the vow renewal ceremony. Volunteer, Loriann, would play her keyboard and sing some of Cindy's favorite songs. I would curl and style Cindy's hair. Music therapist, Iansa, would play her guitar and sing hymns chosen by Cindy and Tim. With plans finalized, everyone was ready for the party.”

“Too weak for me to curl her hair according to plan, Cindy lay peacefully on her bed in her sun-filled living room, nails freshly painted her favorite color, purple, the same color many guests wore in her honor. While Loriann's soothing music carried love throughout their home, friends and family continued to arrive, sharing hugs, thoughts, tears, and smiles. But most of all, sharing lots of love. And then in walked Elvis! Instantaneously, all faces wore smiles, but the biggest smile was Cindy's. She reached up as Elvis lowered his hug to meet hers.”

“The time had arrived for the special ‘I do's.’ Bob officiated, delivering compassionate dignity, as Tim held Dolly and tenderly cradled Cindy's hand. Afterward, hugs flowed and so did more smiles and tears. There was also a silence that filled the room, as guests searched through their emotions, trying to find words to describe the honor and beauty they had just witnessed. Then, Iansa began singing and sharing copies of the hymns so all could join in tribute. Later, some words came to mind and were shared: love, honor, dignity, compassion, care, support, beautiful, moving, incredible, grateful, and thank you. Tim shared that someone mentioned this should be done instead of funerals. I agreed.”

“Cindy and Tim's celebration changed my life. I have never witnessed such a beautiful display of love for one another and from one another. As I write this, now several weeks following Cindy's party and her passing, I am still trying to fully process the magnitude of Cindy's gift fulfilled. What I am certain of is the immense power love has when it is shared. I have to wonder if Cindy and Tim knew that their wishes for themselves would be so far-reaching. I couldn't be more grateful and thankful to Cindy and Tim for allowing me the privilege of sharing in their lives and in their love.”

Words of Appreciation
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