Giving Back to Alive

Thanks to the support of our amazing Middle Tennessee community, Alive provides financial assistance for those who need help covering the cost of care. Whether a family needs a long-term safety net or temporary help to bridge an insurance gap, we are there.

Your support makes all the difference to family members like Allison: “Please trust me when I say that when you give, you help in ways that you can never truly comprehend.”

Read on to find out why Allison was inspired to give back after her mother received financial support at Alive.

My mother was not from a large family. She had two sisters and her mother, as she lost her father quite young. She was only 26. She attended university and when she graduated, she worked for Head Start as an educator and administrator. She had three children, a girl and two boys. After her divorce, she went on to sell real estate and later to open her own interior design firm. She was a painter and an antique collector. She also designed and oversaw the building of several homes. Although she was not a trained architect, her work was well loved and respected by the community. The homes she designed always stayed true to the history and the style of their neighborhoods. This was a source of great pride for her.

My mother always liked to make things beautiful and to be surrounded by beautiful things. This is one of the reasons that we, as a family, wanted to have her spend her last days at Alive Hospice.

My mother always taught us to think deeply. She was an avid reader. She was a person who regularly helped others, but with the most private and meaningful actions. She touched many people in unique ways, which stayed with them throughout their lives. She was beautiful, generous and empathetic.

At the time my mother became ill, I was living in Europe. When I arrived back to America to assist with her care, along with my brothers, it came as a shock to find that her financial situation had changed so dramatically. As a Southern woman, my mother often kept unpleasant truths to herself. As a result of her misdiagnosed cancer, she eventually had to let her insurance lapse because she could no longer work. There were many details which she chose not to share with her children or family members.

In 2003, I got off of an airplane and immediately went to visit my mother at a Nashville hospital. This was the moment I learned that her condition was terminal, and that her insurance had expired. I also learned that she had experienced issues paying for her normal expenses, including her mortgage. It was almost too much to take in. But in extremely trying times, you must fix things to the best of your ability or let it all break you.

My mother always liked to make things beautiful and to be surrounded by beautiful things. This is one of the reasons that we, as a family, wanted to have her spend her last days at Alive Hospice.

The hospital suggested that we visit the County Hospital, where they admit terminally ill patients without health insurance. Upon seeing this facility, I knew that my mother could not spend her remaining time there. I found Alive Hospice through a simple internet search. I asked if I could come visit and talk with them about my mother. They agreed, and when I saw Alive Hospice I knew it was a place where my mother could feel at home. It was (and still is) well-maintained, carefully decorated, and entirely peaceful. I was overjoyed that this type of place existed. I explained that I had relocated from Europe to care for my mother, and that if Alive would agree to admit my mother, we would cover the cost of her care no matter what.

I was very fearful at the prospect of this cost, and fully expected that I would be paying for it for the rest of my life. I worked as a marketing manager for a restaurant chain, and my brothers were in the same industry. Just acknowledging that fear made me feel very shameful and powerless. However, we quickly set about having an estate sale of all of my mother’s beautiful furnishings, paintings and collectables. Although we sold everything, the proceeds only covered a few of months of her overdue mortgage and left very little to put toward her medical bills. We then put her house on the market for sale. However, the mortgage left on the house was sadly more than the actual sale value. We ended up having to return the house to the bank just to avoid further mortgage payments. Those two realities were just devastating. Alive Hospice never knew about our estate sale nor the fact that we could not sell my mother’s home.

The day before my mother passed away, we three children held a vigil by her bed for more than 24 hours. About half way into that process, her doctor passed by and asked to speak with us children outside of my mother’s room. He told us that often people choose the moment of their own death, and that we should be prepared for whatever outcome she decided. At the time, we did not fully understand his words. A few hours later, my mother came out of a morphine induced sleep and said very clearly “How am I going to do this”?

At the time, we also misunderstood her message. At the end of her life, my mother waited until we three children left the room before she died. The doctor was right. My mother simply refused to depart with her children still in the room. Her six words that night were not, in fact, about how she was going to “do” dying. She had, instead, voiced her fear about how was she going to keep herself alive until her children finally left her room. Until the very end, she was our most graceful protector.

The days that my mother spent at Alive Hospice were filled with family, friends, laughter, tears and joy. The staff was so caring and helpful at all times. The doctors were marvelous. The social workers were our pillars of support. Her room was bright, airy and filled with her paintings and drawings. All of the gifts and flowers brought by her friends were displayed so that she could see and enjoy each one. During the early days of her stay, she enjoyed the garden area and would often ask to sit in the sun to feel its warmth. My mother’s last wishes were to hold a baby and pet a dog. Alive allowed both of those things to happen, and the happiness that brought her still stays with me today.

On the day of my mother’s death, my brothers and I had left the hospice to go to Brown’s Diner to eat. We ordered cheeseburgers. Before the food could be delivered, we received a phone call that our mother had passed away. Soon after, we were called into the office of our social workers at Alive Hospice. They told us that we had been chosen to receive charity collected by Alive donors. This gift, we were told, would cover all of my mother’s the expenses for her entire stay. We were so shocked by this gesture that, looking back, I am not even sure what we said or did. We were all so totally filled with grief and pain. The whole situation was almost impossible to process. Our next few days brought funeral arrangements, obituary writing, and a plethora of end of life tasks. I felt like I was in a dream and that I was doing all of these things on a highly detached kind of auto-pilot.

The entire time I had a voice in my head telling me that no matter how horrible this loss was, how awful to have to shop for clothing for your mother to be buried in…that the kind and loving people associated with Alive Hospice had taken the heaviest burden from us. The weight of that enormous cost was just absent, gone. I know that this gift was the only thing that kept me from fully breaking apart as I struggled to come to terms with the loss of such a beautiful soul.

If I could say one thing to people considering a donation, know that death affects us all. No one gets out alive. When you use words like charity and donation, you might imagine the type of person who will benefit from it and how it might change them. I can say that all of these assumptions could be right, but they can also be wrong. The grace of our very existence as human beings holds every possibility and every outcome. The simple gesture -of giving what you can – makes all of the difference in the world. There is an ethereal logic which cannot be put into words. Please trust me when I say that when you give, you help in ways that you can never fully comprehend.

Allison Cody still lives in Europe, and after 15 long years, recently found the strength to return to Alive Hospice to visit, and thank them properly for their generosity. Such was the healing time around the loss of her mother. She also returned to Brown’s Diner with her brothers and finished those cheeseburgers, while toasting a woman who is, to this day, greatly missed.