Liz Schabel with her
husband Frank at
Israel Family Hospice House.
An outdoor lover's request adds another memory to a life well-lived.
By Steve Sullivan
During their more than 50 years together, Liz Schabel and her husband, Frank, visited every state in the country, and camped out in most of them.
So it’s no surprise that after a few days as a patient at Mary Greeley’s Israel Family Hospice House, Liz wanted to go outside.
What Liz asked shortly after nurses wheeled her hospital bed through the doors of the hospice house was a surprise, though: “Can I sleep out here?”
The answer was “yes.”
In the Garden
With members of her family nearby on cots, Liz spent two nights sleeping in her hospital bed under the pergola of the hospice house’s garden area. This, as far as hospice staff can remember, was a first.
“She always loved the outdoors and found fresh air enlightening. Her favorite places were on the beach or in the mountains,” says Frank. “Being outside gave her a chance to see some green and the trees and hear the birds. She woke up smiling.”
The pergola where Liz spent the night,
accompanied by members of her family.
At hospice house, special requests from patients and families are common. It may be a desire to see a family pet one more time, enjoy a dish from a favorite restaurant or a chance to check one last item off the proverbial bucket list. Every attempt is made to honor them.
“Hospice care, whether provided at Israel Family Hospice House or in a patient’s home, focuses on the dignity and quality of life,” says Valerie Bohlen, manager of hospice at Mary Greeley. “While we are providing end-of-life care, we are celebrating life. Helping Liz do something she loved, something that connected to so many experiences she’s had with her family, reflects what we try to do for all our patients.”
Liz, who died at hospice house in June, was known by her family and friends for her wit, writing talent, love of books, commitment to social justice, and impeccable sense of fashion. Her bright red fingernail polish, which provided an eye-catching contrast to the white sheets of her hospice bed, served as a reminder of her ever-present style. She was an award-winning English instructor at Iowa State University, and taught honors seminars on such topics as the Holocaust. She also volunteered at an Iowa men’s prison, teaching theater to inmates. One young man who she had taught visited her at the hospice house.
“She inspired men who had been inside for years to get up and recite scenes of plays, like her favorite, ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’” says Frank. “She touched so many lives.”
Liz came to hospice house after being in and out of Mary Greeley due to chronic illness. During her stay at the hospice, she was surrounded by family, including her three adult sons, and friends, sharing cherished memories and making some new ones. During the first several days at the house, Liz and her family took an epic trip down memory lane, viewing 1,500 pictures from vacations, family gatherings and parties since the 1960s.
“She would narrate everything and laugh,” says Frank. “It was a wonderful transition. She was so happy all the time she was here. Being outside, looking up at the blue sky, made her extremely happy.”