To the wonderful staff at Summerhill: Thank you so much for sending flowers and cards to comfort us after the death of our mother, Priscilla Eldred. She died right when Freddy and I were closing on a house and moving in, so everything kind of happened in a blur for us. It really didn’t seem real to me that she had died until Thanksgiving morning.
Particularly over this past few month, I have been thinking a lot, with deep gratitude, about our experience with Summerhill, and I needed to let you know what a hugely positive part of our lives you have been. Our mother loved you. During these last four years, for probably the only time in her life, people fussed over her, her nails were polished and her hair blown out. The staff would touch her shoulder as they walked by. As she became less able to take care of herself and her caregivers took over her hygiene, she remarked to me, “They are so cheerful and casual about it that I don’t feel embarrassed.” At times, she would be overcome with tears as she talked about how good the staff was to her. When we weren’t able to be there, you loved her for us.
I also have greatly appreciated the conversations and the support that have been a part of my relationship with the Summerhill staff. Some people I have known quite well, some I know your face but not your name. It was a way of being in touch with my mother long after she was able to talk, and it was a talk with a friend. You have found a way to combine professionalism with a very personal touch, something every family badly needs as they experience the gradual disintegration of their parents. It has struck me so forcibly how important your work is, and at the same time how humble and intimate.
You are their last family. The care you give, as they prepare for the great journey into the next world, requires strength and patience and an open heart. I believe every loving action chimes into the universe, and that the residents you care for will carry each tender and gentle and light-hearted thing you do away with them, to wherever it is we go when we die, and it will be a part of their souls forever.
Thank you, all of you, for making this last part of our parents’ lives good for them, and good for us.