When Jerry and Corine Holt, of Cherryvale, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year, their family planned a lovely reception at the local library, complete with cookies, punch and lots of well wishes from friends and family.
Anniversary 51 was celebrated a little more intimately, but it, too, will forever be a treasured memory for this couple.
Jerry, 74, has been pretty sick for several months and, since May, has been receiving services from Mercy Hospice. A lifelong epileptic, he’s also been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and multiple pulmonary complications. His declining condition requires continual care, and he is less able to get around and do the things he’s enjoyed all his life. Traveling, fishing and bowling have been replaced with television programs, puzzles and a rather exhausting regimen of medicine taking.
“When I get up, I rattle,” joked Jerry, referring to the number of pills he takes daily for his conditions.
“I used to love to fish wherever there was water,” he said. Now, more confined to his home, “For the heck of it I’m thinking about throwing a line out here in this mud puddle,” he said, gesturing to the outdoors.
Corine, 69, is Jerry’s constant companion and caregiver. She spends her days managing the household and attending to her husband’s needs. She is assisted by Mercy’s hospice nurses and aides, who make weekly home visits to provide personal and clinical care for Jerry.
“We just love everybody who comes,” Corine said. “They are all nice, courteous, friendly.”
But the scope of care doesn’t end with medicine. The team, which includes a chaplain and social worker, also is looking out for the spiritual and emotional needs of their patients and families, and they routinely look for opportunities to go above and beyond, to create memories and special experiences at this delicate time in life.
Jerry and Corine’s recent anniversary presented the hospice team the perfect opportunity to do something extraordinary – to provide, if only briefly, a respite from the day-to-day rigors of dealing with a terminal illness.
“I have always wanted to ride in a limo,” Corine said. “I don’t think we’ve ever done that - unless it was on the way to the cemetery at a family member’s funeral.” (She’s a bit of a jokester herself.)
On the eve of the Holts’ anniversary, a limo appeared on the curb outside their home. Outfitted with a corsage and boutonniere and in the capable hands of chauffeur Bill Reynolds of Heartland Limousine, the couple was whisked away to an anniversary dinner at their restaurant of choice – Chili’s in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
The Holts’ anniversary date was made possible by the “Mercy Wish” program, which provides special experiences or financial assistance to hospice patients and is funded by memorial gifts and other donations to the Mercy Health Foundation.
Once at the restaurant, the Chili’s staff offered the couple VIP treatment – from welcoming them at the door, “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Holt,” to clearing a path for Jerry’s walker to providing the entire meal “on the house.”
Jerry and Corine reported they had a lovely celebration of their 51 years of marriage, the kind of milestone less and less achieved by couples today. The secrets to their marital longevity?
“Patience and love,” said Corine, with a pat to Jerry’s knee. “You have to have a lot of patience, and sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and bear it.”
Togetherness also has been important, from decades of traveling with close friends all over the region “wherever the mood strikes them” to playing Saturday night Bingo at St. Xavier Catholic Church, which they still do when they’re both feeling up to it.
“He’s pretty lucky,” Corine said of Jerry, noting that he once won a $350 jackpot.
They both agreed having a sense of humor is a key ingredient to a lasting marriage.
“Life’s been just one big joke around here,” Corine said. “Whatever he thinks, he says, and it makes me laugh.” Another pat to Jerry’s knee.
And the most trying time of their marriage? Well, they are experiencing that now.
“When he got sick this time,” Corine said. “That was the worst trying time.”
As challenging as it may be, like everything else that has come their way the last 51 years, the couple is weathering this new territory together. And they are not on their own. The Mercy Hospice team and their loved ones are with them every step of the journey.
“We have a lot of support,” Corine said, with one more pat to Jerry’s knee.