Fall is a season for reflection

by David S. Wiley, President & CEO, Kansas City Hospice

hospice careFall is a season for reflection. I love this time of year because of the change in the weather and the beauty of the Fall colors that will appear in full force in the upcoming weeks.

I am also reflecting on today, October 1, as one of the most important days of my life. It’s the anniversary of my Mom’s death in 2011. After an incredible 9-day journey at the Kansas City Hospice House, at 11:45 AM my Mom took her last breath. I had the grand fortune of staying all 9 days/nights with her as the youngest sibling of six – plus it was important to me to be there. The outcome of our experience is a deep appreciation for, and understanding of, our 24×7 KCHH operation from a family perspective. And to be clear, 10 days before her death I didn’t even know about hospice care. We had never experienced it.

At Kansas City Hospice House

Our family enjoyed the wonderful expert care by Dr. Ann, our nurses, and care partners. Incredible weather each day allowed us to open the window and watch birds flutter in the bushes. We ate Chef Kay’s famous soup and shared meals with our family. We even hosted a dinner for all families in the house while we were there. Mom had a rally day that allowed us to go outside on the porch and have our volunteer Gary play his guitar while singing to us as my Mom tapped her foot to the tune.

We had incredible nurses who knew that I wanted to help turn her each time throughout the night – they honored my onerous wish. There was incredible social work support for our loud, obnoxious family who grieved in various ways. We had family gatherings with guests throughout every single day. There was even a Fellow to support us over the weekend.

And I had Mary Anne – who held my hand on the last morning of Mom’s life asking me if I was okay after she tenderly cared for our Mom during a difficult night. After Mom’s death we had a Chaplain console the 20 family members who grieved her death. These memories are poignantly etched in my mind. Our experience was literally life changing.

Mom’s name was Jean.

I learned to carry on

I learned to carry on and turned my grief into a passion for the work we do. Those days, hours and moments under the care of Kansas City Hospice have compelled my life in a way that is frankly unimaginable. I had the important opportunity to join our Board of Directors in 2013. Then, through a twist of fate, I had the great fortune to join our staff as COO in 2014 and then accepted the role of CEO in 2016. My personal experience as a family member provides a foundation and inspires my thinking and actions because I truly know how meaningful the work we do is to our patients and families.

Each of us who work at Kansas City Hospice have a story and a connection. Many of us have years of experience that inspire us to be strong and resilient, and I am grateful. This week we trained nearly 90 nurses for our new Pharmacy process and the training was in person (and socially distant). Even though we had masks on – it was incredible to actually be in the same large room after 7 long months of appropriate distance.

Hospice is about hope. My hope for you is to take time for reflection on your favorite memories and enjoy this Fall season.

All my best,


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