A Mother's Mission of Love
by Jeff Pederson
Sheboygan Falls News Editor
Although it has been nearly two years since she stood by her daughter's side during her final days at the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice Center, Bernadette Peterson of Sheboygan maintains a deep connection to the Sheboygan Falls end-of-life-care facility.
Peterson, whose daughter Amy Molley, passed away of brain cancer at the hospice center on Aug. 9, 2013, is set to give back in a big way in support of one of her favorite spots on the hospice center property.
Through the assistance of her employer, Sargento, as well as Zimmer Wesview Funeral Home in Sheboygan, Scotty Landscape Supply in Sheboygan and Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice volunteers, she has arranged to supply the hospice garden sanctuary area with 60 yards of new mulch this Saturday, June 20, beginning at 9 a.m.
“My daughter was at the hospice from early May through August 9th of 2013, and I stayed with her during her entire stay,” Peterson said. “I had no idea what the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice was, until I was forced to experience it.
“I quickly found out what a special place it is,” she said. “I actually lived at the center with my daughter and the staff was so incredible. They helped me and taught me so much that in turn I was able to use to help fulfill my promise to my daughter to be by her side to celebrate her life in her final days. I spent a lot of time in the garden area and I noticed that there was a need there, so I kept that in mind when I was thinking of ways to show my appreciation for everything the hospice had done for us.”
Amy's top goal at the end of her life was to see her daughter graduate from high school, which she was able to do through the assistance of the hospice care team.
Shortly after her daughter passed away at the age of 36, Peterson found herself drawn to the hospice as she worked through the grieving process.
“One week after Amy passed away, I found myself going through surgery after I received one of her corneas,” Peterson said. “I was off of work for an extended period of time, which gave me some extra time to think about the entire experience at the hospice.
“As I began the long process of grieving and settling back into myself, I thought a lot about people that were at the hospice like my daughter was, but didn't have anyone there for them,” she said. “Thinking about that really got to me. I was never really a big reader or writer, but about six weeks after Amy passed away, I started journaling all my thoughts down on paper and a lot of things came out. Through doing that, I decided to start volunteering at the hospice to help people that don't have family or friends there by their side,” she said. “I felt it was something I needed to do as a way to pay back for everything the hospice staff gave to me and my daughter during those few months.”
Peterson has served as a inspiration to others giving speeches about her experience with her daughter, including the main address at the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice Annual Dinner last fall.
“Speaking at the hospice annual dinner was a great experience,” Peterson said. “It gave me the best feeling that I was helping people that have dealt with the same kind of situations that I have.
“When you go about living your life, often times you don't realize what people do to help others around you,” she said. “There were so many people that gave so much of themselves to help Amy on her journey. Anything I do as a volunteer or helping with any project is with gratitude for what those people have done.”
Peterson has been the driving force behind an effort to transform the hospice gardens into tip top shape in time for the hospice's second annual Garden Remembrances program, set to take place Thursday, July 9, from 4-7 p.m. in the hospice gardens.
“I thought with the Garden Remembrances coming up, now would be a great time to add the mulch to the garden and really spruce it up for such a special event,” Peterson said. “I knew this was something I could do, but I still couldn't do it on my own.
“I asked for help and people have really come through in a big way,” she said. “I have a team of about 20 volunteers coming this Saturday to spread the mulch, as well as a number of volunteers from the hospice and the Sheboygan County Master Gardeners, who donate their time throughout the year to help with the hospice gardens.”
The free Garden Remembrances event, which runs rains or share, will feature displays and demonstrations from local organizations geared to assisting those dealing with grief.
A harpist and pianist will be playing music throughout the evening and a butterfly release is scheduled at 6 p.m.
“We will have around 10 to 15 stations located throughout our garden area focusing on healthy ways for people to cope with grief,” Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice Director of Development and Communications Angelia Neumann said. “We will have grief counselors, along with several different types of therapies featured, such as art, music, gardening, healing touch, prayer.
“Local organizations, such as Rainbow Kids and Mental Health America will be on hand, as well as our our veterans organization,” she said. “The goal is to connect those grieving with something that works for them in handling their grief. We had about 100 people attend last year and the response was so good, that we decided to make it into an annual event.”
Neumann says it is not unusual for relatives to maintain a close relationship with the hospice following the loss of a loved one.
“We have so many family members that remain close with us after losing a loved one,” Neumann said. “Many decide to become volunteers, others donate in different ways and some just stop by periodically to have lunch or attend grief support meetings. For us, it is just as much about caring for the family as caring for a patient, sometimes even more so.
“The bonds that are formed during those very difficult times spent in hospice care are often very deep and long lasting,” she said. “That is one of the reasons why after a year ago, we change our mission statement to focus on the themes of turning fear into love, patients into people and caregivers into confident heroes. That mission is reflected in what happens at the hospice every day.”
Peterson is eager to see her mulch mission through to completion this Saturday.
“It is going to be a great day,” Peterson said. “I want to thank my employer, Sargento, for helping me so much, donating the t-shirts for the mulch event and being so understanding and accommodating through this entire process.
“Also, Zimmer Westview Funeral Home for donating lawn tools and Scotty Landscape Supply for giving me a great deal on the mulch,” she said. “Also, thanks goes to Miesfeld's for providing brats for the brat fry we are going to be having for the mulch laying event on Saturday.”
Neumann said the mulch project fills a big need for the hospice.
“We have 10 acres of gardens on the hospice grounds,” Neumann said. “The Sheboygan County Master Gardeners have done a great job helping us manage the area, but it is costly to maintain.
“So much so, that we have not been able to keep up with the needs of such a large garden area, because we just can't afford it” she said. “There are spots in the garden where there are big divots from the rainwater so the addition of mulch is greatly appreciated. It was a really big need for us.”
Peterson hopes her act of kindness will help others understand the important role the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice plays in the Sheboygan Falls community.
“This is such a special place,” Peterson said. “It is really a diamond in the rough. I don't think the community truly realizes what we have here. There is just so much good going on.”