When Rich Merli was diagnosed with urethral cancer, his family knew his journey wouldn’t be easy.
The location of his cancer was complicated, and Rich had to have dilation treatments, chemotherapy and, eventually, extensive surgery. As his disease progressed, it became clear that Rich was nearing the end of his life.
While he was a patient at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, a member of the palliative care team visited Rich and his family to discuss options around his care, including hospice. Hospice care helps patients manage their pain and symptoms so that their last days may be lived with dignity.
Initially, Rich’s family members had mixed reactions to the idea of hospice care. Rich’s wife, Wilma, had been struggling to care for Rich at home and thought hospice was the perfect solution for the whole family. Rich’s daughter, Dot, was a little more hesitant.
But, as Rich’s health declined, it was increasingly difficult for Wilma to keep up with his needs.
The family decided that Evelyn’s House, a service offered by BJC Hospice, would offer Rich the specialized 24-hour hospice care he needed. He would spend his final days in a peaceful home-like setting designed specifically for end-oflife care, surrounded by his family.
Evelyn’s House Brings the Family Together
From the first moment Dot and her family arrived at Evelyn’s House, they knew their dad was in the right place.
“It was amazing,” she says. “They not only took care of dad, they took care of our whole family. They told us their only goal was to make sure dad was comfortable, pain free, and taken care of.”
Rich’s children were continuously impressed by their experience at Evelyn’s House, and they appreciated the opportunity to stay right by their dad’s side.
“As sad as the time was, being able to be together as a family was a really good bonding experience. We talked and laughed a lot,” Dot says.
Rich and his family stayed at Evelyn’s
House for 11 days. They experienced
the healing benefits of working with the
music and art therapists and participated
in activities such as painting rocks with
memories of Rich.
“Evelyn’s House gave us the opportunity
to grieve. We knew dad wasn’t suffering
and we were able to cherish that time
together,” Dot says.
Through it all, they felt very connected
with everyone at Evelyn’s House.
One overcast day, Dot was sitting with
her father looking out the window and
talking. They both believed the care at
Evelyn’s House was fabulous and every
single detail was thought of in the design.
They appreciated how the rooms opened
to the outdoors so patients could easily
enjoy the garden and fresh air. Rich loved
the outdoors and bird watching—he
was constantly buying new feeders and
seed—so this was just one more way
Evelyn’s House felt like home to him.
“We so appreciated our experience and
we were thinking about what we could
do to thank these people,” Dot says.
“Nothing seemed like enough.”
Then, as they were looking out the
window, it came to them. “We need
to get them birdfeeders!”
Dot and her family decided to donate
hummingbird feeders to attract the tiny
entertaining birds, one of Rich’s favorite
types, for future patients to see when
they look out their windows.
When Dot found a hummingbird
feeder in the shape of a butterfly,
she knew it was meant to be. Butterflies
were everywhere at Evelyn’s House—
even the logo has a butterfly—so it was
the perfect symbol. The family decided
every room needed to have its own
bird feeder, so friends and family came
together to raise the funds and buy
sixteen beautiful feeders.
The hummingbird feeders became a
special way to honor Rich’s memory and
show the family’s gratitude to Evelyn’s
House. Thanks to their generosity, more
patients and families will enjoy the
beautiful scenes of hummingbirds flitting
by their windows as they enjoy precious
time with their loved ones.