Throwing a party for the ultimate hostess can be somewhat daunting. Carolyn always covers every detail, and has back up plans if something goes sideways. Which as far as I can tell never happens.
When we were planning this party, one of our concerns was the weather, because we all know a storm can roll in at any time. I said that there is no way it is going to rain on Carolyn's party, and if it did, we would don golashes and umbrellas to celebrate Carolyn. So, thank you to my friend upstairs for giving us this beautiful evening in June.
Carolyn, we are all here today to honor you. You are an inspiration to all. Your leadership, passion, and compassion for the past 26 years has made our hospice what it is today.
Your dedication to our community has made us the envy of people across the United States. To say you will be missed is quite an understatement. You are a wife, a mother, a nurse, a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and especially a mentor and friend to me. You mean something to everyone. Thank you, Carolyn for everything that you have given our community.
Cheers to Carolyn Nystrom!
I preface this speech, there are so many things that I admire and appreciate about Carolyn, that I'm not able to touch on them all.
With that said...
Many of you have heard me say coming to work for HPCWRV is like a 'breath of fresh air'. From the very beginning in my interview process I knew this was a special place, lead by a very special woman! I felt it in my heart, and tears streamed down my face.
I actually had a dream after my interview; (which by the way is an amazing process in itself, that helped me know more about myself than when I started...That's what talking with CN can do! ) In the dream I'm riding on a motorcycle with CN driving up this trail into the woods which was light and beautiful. The symbol of CN driving is obvious, the motorcycle (to me) symbolizes adventure, fresh air, off the beaten path (thus our non-medicare certified hospice), and taking time to stop and explore along the journey.
I knew I'd be doing hospice nursing and grateful for not having to deal with all the paper work r/t that model of care. Little did I know the many gifts that would come working with CN over these last 14+ years! I have 'firsts' for my baby book, riding a pogo stick in the office (and I have a photo to prove it!). That my creative side would be encouraged and expanded (cooking, art, gardening, singing (to pts), making gifts for each other). The incredible professional development that I've had over the years. The encouragement of our own QOL, both inside work and our outside life (Mon. AM meetings were we discuss, laugh, cheer each other on, and cry). The unique team building activities we've done (cooking classes, art classes, skiing, fly fishing, caroling to our pts, planting our hanging baskets together...).
And I've learned so many pearls working with you that not only apply to work, but also to my life. To ask more questions, that less is more, the importance of family (and I SO appreciate our hospice family and how you've taken care of us, been a Mother Hen and had our backs!), to be a learner not a teacher, the importance of communication and consistency, the importance of boundaries,self care and resilience, how to reframe things (positive vs negative), not to awfulize things, to be responsive in the moment, and not to yard up but mingle/be engaged and involved.
I really appreciate your leadership style. A practical, commonsense, professionalism. You've said that you love to teach, and that's really reflected in how you are able to recognize and utilize teachable moments. I could see early on, when you talked to pts family in the office or on the phone, I listened, took notes, and knew I'd learn some way to say things, that would be helpful/empowering/reassuring. I also really appreciate your confidence building approach, 'that's a good idea, here's another possible idea, or another thought...'. I admire your creativity, how you can come up with themes for groups, the summit, volunteer functions, parties... I also admire your seemingly endless energy, impeccable memory, how grounded your are, your leadership by example (in the trenches so to speak), and your responsiveness to things going on in the community (when we had the fire, you had an inservice to help support us on resiliency and gave us wild flower seeds to reseed with). I also really appreciate how supportive and responsive you have been to me both personally and professionally!
It has been an amazing adventure, to learn and grow in hospice with you! Thank your for everything!!!
Does anyone have an Ativan? I am a little nervous.
Carolyn, our journey together started 15 years ago and I always assumed it would end together as well and now you are leaving me. What happened? Life leads us down different paths, that's what happened and now yours is taking you closer to the cabin in the Sierras that you and Jim love so much.
But while you may be leaving Hospice and the Wood River Valley you will always be a part of Hospice, you are Hospice. There would be no Hospice but for you. Your dedication, knowledge and especially you incredible energy have made us what we are and given us the strong foundation that will allow us to continue to be of service to our patients and our community even in you absence.
For the entire Wood river Valley, thank you.
Throughout my years here the nurses have been telling me I was the lucky one. I got to be in the office with you and listen and learn from you every day. I got to hear the stories, receive the advice and the guidance and absorb the knowledge and the wisdom. It was like a 15 year PhD course in Hospice taught by a master. The truth is we are all the lucky ones. We all got to listen and to lean. Whether it was a new board member learning what Hospice was all about, a nurse on how to make a dying patient as comfortable as possible, a volunteer getting patient care pearls from and in-service, a child learning that they were not alone in their grief, a friend being guided through a loved one's death or Lisa, our new Executive Director learning how to run our unique and special program. Countless traumatic and heartbreaking situations and you were always there with guidance and wisdom. You were a rock. The teacher I or any of us could ever have. I can't tell you how many times I will think or say something and then realize, "that was Carolyn".
Because of you I can proudly day I work for the best Hospice in the country. Thank you, it has been an honor.
You have given so much of yourself to our Hospice ad now your journey is taking you on a different path. Enjoy it and remember, we love you.
From MJ (MJ is Carolyn's sister in Virginia) - June, 2016 Read by Monica Hebert
As a supporter of HWRV and a long distance volunteer I wish I could be with you as you recognize Carolyn's retirement. No one wants to celebrate her leaving but it is a time to celebrate what she has accomplished and what she leaves behind.
There are a couple things you should know:
Carolyn got all the creativity genes in the family but I was lucky enough to be a part of this volunteer group by shopping most often with Carolyn in my neck of the woods for linens for buns and muffins, craft items for kids' camp, supplies for volunteer luncheons, and providing background music for the Christmas tree lighting. I was lucky enough, too, to stuff envelopes here, ride shotgun on a few patient care visits, even down to Carey, and peruse recipes for the next new culinary treasure. A fond, but early, remembrance was our collaborating on visual displays of well-known idioms like "needle in a haystack" which I think was for a training session.
She also got all the family genes for leadership skills but boy did I love that! If she wasn't with the Girls Scouts, it was the Hospice organization which brought her to the East coast pretty routinely that allowed her to schedule a few extra days for us to share time together.
You folks benefitted for 25 years from her leadership and creativity genes but I have you all beat; I have the genes that made us sisters.
I send my best wishes to Lisa and HWRV which, thanks to Carolyn, has now been established as such an important and valued part of this area. As Carolyn would so quickly tell you -
Life moves on, not from where we were but from where we are.
"A Woman in Her Garden"~Lisa Wild
There was a woman in a garden
when it was just a pile of dirt.
There were some tools available for the task,
but she brought the vision in her grasp.
First she started with the color
because everyone had to know:
This garden would be special
and she would make it grow.
It would be full of cheerful perennials
that could be counted on
To bring the reassurance
that these would always keep on.
She worked and toiled and labored
in the sweltering sun.
The years went by and the seasons
but she had just begun.
For there was a woman in her garden
And things were just starting to get fun!
She focused her attention
on the other helpful hands
Who had arrived to work in the garden
now there was a plan.
This woman knew she must plant trees
to protect them from the elements.
The seedlings grew
until they provided a canopy like tent.
There was a woman in her garden
who looked around and said "This is good."
Of course, she thought, the problem is
I'm looking for very good.
So she oversaw some plantings
of a new annual flower bed.
She busied herself with this and that
changing that which was dead.
Do not worry lovely woman
because your garden will continue to grow
Because of your wonderful planning
and the vision we have all come to know.
There was a woman in her Eden
that gave her biggest gift-
She shared the Eden so another
could stand in its midst.
About 35 years ago, having worked for many years as an emergency room and intensive-care nurse, Carolyn answered a newspaper advertisement calling for a volunteer coordinator position in end of life care at a hospice in the San Francisco Bay Area. Thus began her second career which brought her to the Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley in 1990. Our Hospice had been started in 1985 in the basement of Sun Valley's Moritz Community Hospital which covered all expenses incurred by its one employee. The one drawback was that the office was located next to the very smelly exercise room! Carolyn became that one employee - the Hospice's one nurse on 24 hour call who, if she was unavailable, advised people seeking her help: "Call your doctor!" She had two patients - Jim Donart and Bob Shay's wife.
Carolyn started to expand immediately. She hired a 12 hours per week office worker; she lectured on "Sudden Death" to 30 potential volunteers whom Billie Smarden had gathered in her Northwood home; volunteer Sandy Hyde directed bereavement groups; pediatric nurse Sue Taylor cared for ill babies and their families in Carey; at Steve Luber's request Carolyn drove to Challis periodically to soothe an aids patient until, in 1993, she had a serious automobile accident returning on icy highway 93 north of Smiley Creek.
She did anything … at any time of day. I was Mayor of Sun Valley at the time and hence was empowered to perform marriage ceremonies. Carolyn phoned me in the middle of the night to ask if I would accompany her to the home of a dying gentleman who wanted desperately to make his girlfriend a proper married woman before he died. I did just that and, after toasting the happy couple with Rose wine in jelly glasses, Carolyn and I returned home at dawn. Amused, she later told me that he had lived another two months!!! Love conquers all - even death!
In 1994, the little red house became available. It's was a complicated transaction, primarily because it is a duplex and ½ was inhabited by a well-established rentor whose rent helped pay the mortgage. The bottom line is that a grateful community - some very helpful people, Nick Nicolai and Don Siegal, among others -- got together, covered the utilities, and raised money to eventually buy it. One day, Jim Wray phoned Carolyn and asked: "What would make your day?" She responded: "$70,000 to pay off that house." His response: "The check is in the mail!"
That little house with Carolyn, it's full-time CEO and 2 nurses, plus a part-time office manager and 3rd nurse, has become a part of the fabric of the Blaine County community, totally integrated with our churches, our schools, the local medical professionals, the health care facilities, the businesses, and the first responders (fire, police, etc.) because of its occupants creativity, innovation, clinical excellence, competency and integrity. To quote Carolyn: "All the right people have been in the right places at the right time to change the landscape of death and dying."
In my book, the right people have been inspired by the right person: who else fed a horse for a patient; got a golden retriever for someone who had lost his and wanted "a fix"; found a ukulele teacher for a client who wanted to learn 'Amazing Grace', have it recorded and played at her funeral; is such a convincing speaker that, after hearing her talk on estate planning, I want home and wrote my obituary (3 pages single space - they're gonna' have to buy the whole newspapers); is mistress of ceremonies at the lighting of the tree at Christmas; sings carols with a group of staff and volunteers at numerous patients homes that same season; is a hostess as well as chief cook and bottle washer many times throughout the year; is the recipient of too many awards to list except one in particular when, in 2013, Carolyn received a $50,000 Sojourns Award from Cambia Health for her exemplary service to the Wood River Valley. The money is being used to support one of Carolyn's favorite programs called the Legacy Project wherein local students go into the homes of hospice patients to interview elders and write the stories the elder wants to pass on to future generations.
In closing, of Carolyn's innumerable qualities, the one that I respect the most is her lifelong appreciation of, partnership with, and love for her magnificent husband, Jim.