My Uncle Sam died this week.

He was my shining star of a hospice patient. When people say, “Oh, hospice is where you go to die” or “I don’t know if my patient only has 6 mos to live.” I would use my Uncle Sam as an example.

We put my Uncle Sam on hospice 3 years ago. Without a doubt, in my mind, Sam lived longer BECAUSE of hospice than if he had not had the support that hospice afforded him.

Uncle Sam is not my real uncle – he is my husband’s, Chris, stepfather’s (who is no longer married to my mother–in–law) brother.

I know it’s confusing, but that’s what happens when your father-in-law and mother-in-law have been married 3 times each – you get LOTS of extra families!

The best part about that for me is that I get to choose who my FAVORITE is, and I have LOTS of choices – Poor Chris is stuck with limited options in my family.  🙂

Uncle Sam lived a very adventurous life.

He was a pilot in the Navy and rose to the rank of Captain for TWA, who then was bought by American.

Sam was full of wild, amazing stories and was so witty. You know, the kind of wit that sometimes hurts like a paper cut. He would throw out there a “zinger,” and you would laugh, and then 2 minutes later, you would say – “Ouch,” that stung a little!

So, when Alzheimer’s took his cognitive ability and mobility, I knew hospice was the right answer. His doctors at the VA wanted him to be an inpatient at a long-term care facility, but my Aunt Linda promised that she would care for him in their home, and so we took him home, and he was served by hospice.

Aunt Linda called last week and shared that Sam was actively dying. She asked me to come and sit with her and Sam. The hospice team was fantastic! She had daily visits over the last week from all the disciplines- nursing, SW, Chaplain, aides.

As you can imagine, being on caseload for so long, the clinical team had a deep relationship with Sam and Linda.

The hospice prepared Aunt Linda well for his passing. She had the medications, and she was well informed about using them for his pain.

We sat with Sam and told fun Sam stories. Sam was VERY colorful. He liked to “shock” folks and walk away like he didn’t just say what he said. The first time he did this to me, I was dating my husband Chris – we would come to Fairhope and work on the family boat.

As a child, Chris grew up on this sailboat– sailing every weekend in the summer, but it had sat neglected in the slip for about 10 yrs. So, when we decided to “get back into sailing,” there was a TON of work to be done.

I took on restoring the teak in the cabin. It was hard work, sanding, inside the cabin in the AL summer heat. Sawdust sticking to every inch of your sweaty skin.

Even though I sanded and sanded, I could not get out the water damage marks, so I decided to stain it.
(not knowing then that that’s not the best method of restoration – but hey, this was before we all had you tube in our pockets- how was I supposed to know?) So I stained it, and I thought it looked GREAT!

Later that day – after I cleaned up my work tools, I was ready to show it off! I was SO excited. I thought it made a BIG difference in the cabin. I called Uncle Sam down to see my handy work.

Uncle Sam came aboard with his ever-present cigar in his right hand – stepped down into the companionway, stood up in the cabin, and looked around. I said, “Uncle Sam, how do you like it?” grinning from ear to ear proudly, awaiting him to tell me my hard work paid off, and it looked great! Sam said, “It looks great if you are going to make it a floating bordello.”

He turned and climbed the stairs back up the companionway giggling to himself and shaking his head. I looked around and started laughing too. He was right. It was a little “reddish” – ok, I think I might have used Cherry stain – OMG, what was I thinking?

But Sam just laughed, and later that night at dinner at his house, he said, “Well, Mel – you did a good job at cleaning the wood. And the red-well it matches your hair – so what the hell? Good God, woman, next time, do some research!”

That was Sam – quick with a laugh and putting you in your place at the same time.

Sam passed on Sunday with Aunt Linda at his side. I was at my house getting ready to go over to their house for the day, and Linda text “Mel, I think you need to come now. Uncle Sam is not breathing much” And so I did.

Uncle Sam passed within the hour. He was surrounded by Aunt Linda, myself, and his devoted in-home care caregiver for the last 4 yrs – Trish. (Trish was a private pay caregiver 8 hrs a day 5 days a week for 4 yrs and had become like family to Sam and Linda)

I called the hospice nurse Tara who came to pronounce, call the funeral home and dispose of the medications. She was exactly who you hoped would be there for Aunt Linda, and she executed the plan flawlessly. I am grateful to have been reminded of our clinicians’ fantastic work in the home.

Uncle Sam didn’t have any children, so it was up to Chris and me to write the obit, deliver the eulogy, organize the service and generally be the funeral “director” of the event.

It was a whirlwind of the last few days, but the service was perfect, and Aunt Linda LOVED it – and that was the promise we made Uncle Sam to, in his words, “plant him in the ground” and get Linda through it. We did.

Home Care is the gift we give the patient and their families.

I know you are out there every day sharing your message of hospice, home health, and in-home care so that more people are impacted (just like our family) by your services.


Thank you for all you do!


You make a difference for families!



P.S. Want to read more about the “legend” that is Uncle Sam – click here


P.S.S. Want to impact more lives through your marketing messages – click here to discuss how you can with Mike