Two Mighty Oaks – Frederick Health Hospice

By: Carlos Graveran – Executive Director – Frederick Health Hospice

I recently made the difficult decision to take down the two majestic 70-foot-tall oak trees in my front yard.  While they blocked our view through the front window, it was a difficult decision to make since they were one of my favorite features of the property and shaded our home for so many years.  Sadly, they had become diseased, and since they leaned away from each other from a shared base, like a “V”, we feared an unplanned fall would have devastating consequences for anything or anyone within their reach. 

I was grateful for the skill and care of the arborist and his crew, who helped us safely through the process; we couldn’t have done it without them.  While relieved to see them come down, I honestly didn’t expect to experience the deep sense of loss that came over me. I suddenly had images of my late father and mother flood my mind.  Puzzled at first, I quickly understood the connection. They, too had been the mighty oaks in my life. 

Perhaps it’s just because I deal with grief and loss as an integral part of my work, but the metaphor resonates with me on many levels.  I had no idea who to call for help, I never had a need for that service.  It was my neighbor who recommended someone who had helped him in the past. The same was true with the passing of my father.  At the time, I had little, if any, personal experience with death and was ill-equipped for it. It was hospice that helped us through it.

Now, after decades of experience as a hospice professional, I can say that the same can be said about most families.  People spend more time planning their next vacation than how they want to spend their final days. Conversations about end-of-life are avoided as if just discussing the subject would somehow cause it to occur. Yet, for those who do call hospice and take the time to share their wishes, the experience is far less painful for both the patient and their family.  

For more than 43 years, Frederick Health Hospice has provided compassionate care to those approaching end-of-life and their families. When a cure is no longer an option, hospice prioritizes the in-home care and comfort of the patient so he or she can make the most of the time they have remaining. Our hospice focuses on what is possible and most needed. We constantly look for opportunities to improve the individual care of our patients and for ways to leverage our strengths in support of families and our community at large. Programs like Music Therapy, our Veterans Program, extensive bereavement services, and Camp Jamie (grief camp for children and teens) are just a few examples, and all are provided free of charge.  Most importantly, no one is ever turned away for inability to pay.  

My father was four months shy of his 76th birthday when cancer took him from us. Like all families who have shared the experience, we were left with more questions than answers: regrets and second guesses. We all uttered the refrain we hear most often from our families, “… I wish I had known about hospice sooner.”  While he was not in hospice for very long, I can tell you that it was a blessing to our entire family. It allowed us to be his family again, not his caregivers. He received tender care that allowed him to live out his final days in peace and dignity, and we received the emotional and grief support we so desperately needed to carry on without him.  

I learned through that experience that grief will always be with me but will not define me. Though painful, it reminds me of his strength and the love I feel for him. Like those fallen trees that shaded me, their absence has altered how I see the landscape of my life. While I can see much farther now, I will always miss my two mighty oaks.

Mr. Carlos Graveran has more than 30 years of experience in various facets of the healthcare industry. He currently serves as Executive Director of Frederick Health Hospice, a non-profit hospice agency in Frederick, Maryland. Prior to his current appointment in July of 2016, he served as vice president of operations for a national for-profit hospice agency and has held various other leadership positions in the hospice, home health and pharmaceutical industries. He is a passionate advocate for hospice and end-of-life care with demonstrated knowledge of hospice operations, leadership, financial management and strategy development. Mr. Graveran Co-Chairs the Public Policy Committee for the Hospice and Palliative Care Network of Maryland. He serves on the Board of Directors for several charitable organizations and enjoys giving back to the community as a volunteer to children’s charities and veterans causes. When not at work he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, camping, hiking, hunting and travel. A graduate of the University of Maryland, Carlos is also a very proud U.S. Army veteran (Paratrooper, 82nd Airborne Division).

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