Hospice care is a blessing

In memoriam: Beate Fronckevics, 1943-2005

I've written two previous columns about my friend, Beate, a woman battling metastatic breast cancer. She died. In peace. At home.

Her most fervent request was achieved. With the dedicated support of Swedish Home Helpers and the Swedish Hospice Program, Beate remained at home, surrounded by friends. I met every one of them. She had many faithful, caring colleagues who visited her condo often.

Death at close range is a teacher of many things. It's absolutely impossible to care for a human being for seven solid months and not experience significant change.

I don't really know how much I'll change over the next months as I go through my grieving process. But change I will.

I observed thousands of tiny, tender behaviors during my time with Beate. I've witnessed subtle gender differences between male and female visitors. The women for the most part were uninhibited about kissing and touching Beate upon entering her home. They'd gush with affection. They brought food to eat - even when Beate's mouth and throat shut down with the horrible thrush.

A lady-friend typically would ask: "Beate, do you know who I am?" Beate would awaken with a start, turn her head toward the woman and say with some gusto, "Of course I do!"

The handful of men who were brave enough to visit Beate would do the normal salutations, but from a distance, as though almost afraid to make personal contact. The majority of the men seemed to talk loudly even when it was apparent that she needed quiet. They obviously loved their dear friend, but they could not feel comfortable with touching a dying person.

Beate assigned me a few tasks to perform after her death. Although she was born into a Catholic family and confirmed in the Latvian Episcopal Lutheran church, she died an agnostic. I tried to extract the story but was rebuffed. "No church service, Bernie," she said. "Just cremate me and scatter my ashes over Puget Sound."

We performed that duty last weekend at Shilshole Marina. It was a sad assignment.

Probably the most interesting request was to have an elegant sit-down dinner for the individuals she identified in her will. Beate loved dining out as well as participating in formal-type business functions. I've found many photographs of her posing, smartly dressed, at many such affairs.

In most cases she was the individual responsible for planning and implementing these dinners. In fact, as a young, professional lady, Beate used to serve as a tour guide and traveled the world. Her favorite destination was London. No wonder she developed a flair for fine dining and elegant entertaining.

The Medicare Hospice Benefit was established in 1982 as part of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act. Then, as now, the attending physician and the medical director were both required to certify that the patient was terminally ill when the prognosis was six months or less.

Hospice programs seek neither to prolong life nor to hasten death but to provide comfort and dignity, as well as enhance the quality of time that remains. Hospice programs support the patient and the family, help them identify their remaining hopes and goals and assist them in realizing them. The hospice team is a source of patient and family education, practical support, and psychological and spiritual counseling.

Fronckevics, Beate Margaret, age 62, died Oct. 7, 2005, at her home.

She was born in Latvia on Feb. 24, 1943, daughter of Stanley and Sylvia Fronckevics nee Birkenbergs.

She was employed for 22 years as a planner and administrative assistant at the Seattle-based law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine.

She was united in marriage to Robert Wall on July, 1963, in Winnemucca, Nev. Later divorced.

She is survived by maternal cousins and a paternal uncle, all of whom are Canadian residents. She is also survived by her step-mother and step-brother of King County. A step-sister resides in Fort Collins, Colo.

Remembrances may be made in her name to Swedish Home Care Services, 5701 6th Ave. S., Suite 404, Seattle, WA 98108.

Rest in Peace my friend.[[In-content Ad]]