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Sustenance – both physical and spiritual – strengthens grieving families

November 01, 2017
Foundation Bascom Family bereavement

For nearly a week in October of 2016, the Bascom family gathered around the Reverend Dr. Eric W. Bascom, Jr. as he neared the end of his long struggle with congestive heart failure. Five children, four stepchildren, and scores of spouses and grandchildren arrived from points near and far, converging in the Rev. Dr. Bascom’s room in the MassMutual Wing of Baystate Medical Center’s Davis Family Heart & Vascular Center.

“Angels come when you need them most,” says Ann Bascom Aurich. “Every person who was sent to us at Baystate brought his or her unique strengths to help my father and our family.” The Bascom family decided to turn their experience with Baystate staff into a Gift of Gratitude in their father's honor.

A Healing Environment

The experience could have been chaotic, and even more stressful, were it not for the “crowd control” efforts of Kevin Shaw, RN, says Ann.

“Kevin managed it all with such kindness, creating an environment that was not overwhelming for Dad,” she says, recalling long days and nights that were healing and beautiful as well as sad.

In his final days, Rev. Dr. Bascom, Jr.’s caregivers made sure that each of his many family members had one-on-one time with him. A son on the cusp of overseas military deployment was at his father’s bedside. Late one night, another son sat in the darkness with his guitar and softly sang his father’s favorite James Taylor songs to him.

“Kevin and every other member of Dad’s care team – Jeff Hannafin, RN, Mary Bove, RN, Betsy Bateman, RN, Betzy Caban, RN, Heather Mulcahey, RN, David Bennett, RN, Trish McGovern, NP, Jackie Andrews, PCT, Mara Tanon, PCT, Richelle Power, PCT, the chaplains who prayed with us, and of course Dr. Mara Slawsky, who took care of Dad for so many years, right up until the end – guided us through uncharted territory with such wisdom and compassion,” says Ann. “They will always have a place in our hearts, and I’d like to think that our father left a piece of his heart with them.”

“Ironically, as a fifty-year member of the clergy in Springfield, Dad had served on an Interfaith Council that fought hard to bring palliative care to the Pioneer Valley and Baystate,” she adds. “How blessed we were that he was ultimately a recipient of that fine care.”

Sustenance in grief

Having arrived from her home in Fredericksburg, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and grandson, Ann rarely left her father’s room. “I essentially moved in,” she remembers. “None of us wanted to leave, because we knew that he could pass at any moment.”

That’s why the bereavement trays provided by the Baystate Health Palliative Care Program were so welcome, she explains – and why the Bascom family decided to request memorial donations to help make the trays available to other families who will walk in their shoes.

"Bereavement trays" are trays of food that hospital staff arrange for families of dying patients. 

"At one point, early on, we had about 15 people in Dad’s room or in the corridor, and in comes this tray full of healthy food prepared and delivered with such love,” she remembers. “It was such a surprise. The next one came a couple of days before he passed. And the final one came after he died, when we were lost in our grief – providing both physical and spiritual strength. Those little human touches mean so much.”

A "No-brainer" for charitable contributions

When the family considered where to direct potential charitable contributions from the thousands of people whose lives Rev. Dr. Bascom, Jr. had touched during his long ministry, “it was a no-brainer” to choose the bereavement trays program, says Ann. “We’re so grateful to all the people who are now helping the Bascom family support others through loss and grief, in Dad’s memory,” says Ann. “We hope we’re providing some comfort to them, as others did for us.”

Learn more about the Gifts of Gratitude program, and other options for charitable giving to Baystate Health.