Allison Berry

Featured Book Club Of The Month–Evansville, Indiana

November 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm , by

The club poses with Bobby Deen on their trip to Savannah, GA.

The women of the Make Time To Read Book Club in Evansville, Indiana share a bond goes far beyond a common interest in reading. “Book Club has expanded my repertoire of reading choices and taken me outside of my comfort zone,” says club member Laura Stephenson. “But more importantly, I’ve formed life-long friendships.”

How many members do you have, and how long have you been getting together for book club meetings?

“We have been a group for the past 14 years with 15 members currently. Even though they aren’t official members, we have had 4 children marry through the years and 2 have ‘book club grandbabies.’” – Jerrianne Bonenberger

Is there anything special you do for each meeting or on occasion?

“We rotate houses for our monthly meetings, and we do have wine and snacks. We try to hold one special meeting a year, when dine out or have a potluck based on the book (The Recipe Club, for instance), or we take a trip.  To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the club, we took a trip to Savannah, Georgia in May 2008. We read Paula Deen’s memoir that month and had a lovely time. We rented a beautiful, historic home, and visited Paula Deen’s restaurant and her brother, Bubba’s, too.” – Kim Higgins

What’s your favorite book you’ve read together and why?

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is a club favorite; but personally, Still Alice by Lisa Genova proved very poignant for me this year. Having a father suffering from Alzheimer’s, this book, while fiction, was a thought-provoking and truly insightful look into this cruel disease.” – Laura Stephenson

Everyone’s super busy these days. Why is it important to you to make time to read and then get together?

“My family knows that the last Wednesday of the month is book club and for me to miss it, there must be a very important excuse.  The fellowship of this wonderful group of women means a lot to me, but also we like to refer to it as a mom council.  Several women have older children, and they became  the younger members’ mentors when we had parenting questions.  Plus I know that any time I need something or someone, I can call any of these gals and she would be right there.  I consider them not only good friends but sisters.” – Jerrianne Bonenberger

“We have such a connection with each other in so many different ways. Some of us only see each other at book club. Others see each other frequently. Many of us have children who went to school together. Some of us go to church together. Each month is a time for us to discuss the joys of reading and our favorite books, but also a chance to connect personally and discuss what is going on in our personal lives and with our families.” – Kim Higgins


Hospice Care Doesn’t Have To Be Sad

June 13, 2012 at 11:40 am , by


When we decided to do an article about hospice care for the July issue, we learned so much—most notably how empowering it can be for patients navigating their final days. ”I had several friends who had used hospice when a loved one was dying,” says Julie Bain, LHJ’s health director. “They all told me it was one of the best decisions they’d ever made and provided so much comfort and peace at an incredibly difficult time.” That’s why we decided to create a photo essay showing what it’s like to be a hospice nurse, caring for patients who want to die as comfortably as possible in their own homes. (That’s nurse Jill Campbell, above, of Gilchrist Hospice Care in Baltimore, which recently won an award from the American Hospital Association for its innovative care.)

When hospice care started to become available in the United States in the 1970s, it was mostly for end-stage cancer patients. While cancer diagnoses still account for a third of hospice admissions, people with other terminal diseases such as heart disease and dementia now make up the majority, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. We were surprised to learn that everyone’s entitled to end-of-life care, whether you have the ability to pay or not. The costs are usually covered by insurance plans, Medicare or Medicaid.

The use of hospice services is on the rise, but some people still think of it as giving up. As a result, more than a third of hospice patients don’t start palliative care until they have just days left to live. “People are so afraid to make the decision. But when you decide to get all the hospice supports earlier on, like Linda Schuberth (one of the patients in our story) did, you can make that limited time so much better,” says Diana K. Sugg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer we tapped to follow Campbell for our story. Sugg worked closely with Pulitzer-winning photographer Monica Lopossay to capture the heartwarming and poignant images.

This was a special story to our staffers who have personal experience with hospice care. Assistant editor Amelia Harnish was only 15 years old when her dad was diagnosed with hepatitis C. Four years later, her family chose hospice when other treatments failed. “The scariest part was the night that he died,” she recalls. “You’re never prepared for something like that, and at the time, I was barely 20 years old. The hospice nurse was there to explain to us what was happening, and to make sure he wasn’t in pain. Without that sense of comfort, I don’t know how my family could have handled it.”

For senior editor and digital director Amanda Wolfe, the decision to place her mother in hospice care at the end of her battle with ovarian cancer (which she chronicled for LHJ here) was difficult, but worth it. “I really believe that hospice is a gift to both the dying person and their family: My mother passed away in her home, surrounded by her daughters, and in the least amount of pain. Hospice made it possible for her to die in peace,” Wolfe says.

When photo associate Vivette Porges also lost her mother to ovarian cancer last year, she had a team of hospice workers at her side—counselors, psychiatrists, even a rabbi—but her mother’s nurse Debra Fox was at the center of it all. “She knew exactly what to say and when to say it. She was an excellent listener and made it clear that we could lean on her 24/7. She coordinated everything,” Porges says.

Our story has touched a nerve, and many people have shared it on Facebook and written thoughts about their own experiences with hospice. We hope you’ll read our story “It Doesn’t Have To Be Sad,” think about it and discuss your own wishes with your loved ones. And please leave a comment if you have any thoughts you’d like to share with others.

Photo by Monica Lopossay