Story of Randy Apel and Linda Cates’ Journey

The light streaming through the trees and blinds into Room 12 at the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice (SSRCH), on a warm August day, gave my husband and I an opportunity to reflect on what a sacred place it is for us. This was the beginning of the last week of Randy’s life and the final day of his ability to verbally communicate.

We fell in love at SSRCH, when I was the Development Director for the SSRCH, and he had agreed to speak at our annual dinner sharing the experience of the death of his first wife Dee at the Center in 2009.  Our 10 years together since have been a celebration of life. On the mountain tops and in the valleys, this day was no exception.  During the week he spent at the Center, family surrounded him; expressing our honor and appreciation in conversation and prayers, touching his heart with gentle loving presence and massaging his arms and legs . . . following the example of his care team.   Randy’s walk with receiving hospice care began years after his volunteer work with the We Honor Veterans program; he loved connecting with others who served our country.  

In November of 2019, after struggling with a variety of diagnoses and incidents, Randy became a resident in skilled care at Pine Haven.  The quarantine resulting from the COVID-19 virus began in mid-March, lending to his sense of isolation and depression as he “wilted” from a lack of direct interaction with loved ones. We asked God to be merciful (at the same time clinging to hope) as his condition deteriorated – Richardson Palliative Care had been engaged earlier this year to expand the resources available to him and provide comfort, focused care and support for me.  

The journey of walking a loved one home requires great courage and presence – leaving little energy for the caregiver.  When it was clear that he was nearing the end of his journey, the admission to inpatient hospice was made quickly – the expertise, caring, communication and process was impeccable on the part of the SSRCH team.  

Within 24 hours of admission, Randy slept for the first time in three days; shared a burger with me – as was his habit, and received the appropriate medication to calm his paranoia, fears and hallucinations.  He slept peacefully and was comfortable – as family began our final visitations. We implored God to embrace him, take him into that space where his cardinals are always singing, the eagles are soaring, and he will shine like the sun. And so, in this sacred space where the focus was on Randy’s comfort, and the care of family members – he went home to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  

Not the end of the story, our family and friends are supporting a major naming opportunity in the Spring. A tribute to the compassionate and faith-driven spirit of Randy’s life, where family can gather and thank God for him, share memories, and celebrate the loving community working together recognizing the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice as a precious resource for all.  

With great love for my Sparky, and the beacon of light shining bright from the hospice – I offer this in praise and thanksgiving.

The proud wife of Randy Apel,

Linda F. Cates