Tift Regional to celebrate and honor lost loved ones at annual Tree of Life Ceremony on December 10

Pictured from left to right in the photo: Christie Moore, Director of Hospice of Tift Area,  and Dianne Cowart.

Pictured from left to right in the photo: Christie Moore, Director of Hospice of Tift Area, and Dianne Cowart.

Past Hospice of Tift Area employee and board member remembers husband during holiday season

Adel, Ga. – Area residents will honor family and friends and remember lost loved ones at the Tree of Life lighting ceremony next Thursday, December 10 at 6 p.m., held on the front lawn at Tift Regional Medical Center (TRMC). An annual holiday tradition in its 30th year, the Tree of Life is sponsored by the Tifton Junior Woman’s Club, raising money for a special fund benefiting patients of the TRMC Oncology Center and Hospice of Tift Area with special needs.   With various giving levels, lights for the tree are purchased in memory or honor of a special family member or friend.

As a past bereavement coordinator and board member for Hospice of Tift Area, Dianne Cowart can attest to the value that hospice care can provide a family. Cowart experienced the other side of hospice when her husband passed away in 2014.

Dianne Cowart was originally an educator in the public school system and an administrator at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. Upon retiring, she became the bereavement counselor for Hospice of Tift Area. “I was licensed in counseling and had personal experience in caregiving. I knew a little about how hospice worked and what it entailed, but learned much more when I began working with Hospice of Tift Area,” says Cowart.

Cowart says she learned so many techniques from the caregivers she came in contact with. She especially learned techniques to help families ease the obvious loss they were experiencing. Cowart says, “Grief doesn’t begin only when a person dies; it sometimes begins when the process of loss takes place. Caregivers mourn in little bits and pieces when their loved one can no longer drive, experience mobility, loses their sense of humor, etc.”

Through her experience as a bereavement coordinator, Dianne realized there is no magic phrase or action that can erase loss or make it better, but sometimes, all families need is someone to be there for them. “Going through it is the only way to deal with it. That’s what hospice is all about. The employees can’t go through the grief for you, but they can be a sounding board or the security blanket you may need when dealing with loss. They can really help a family make it through a loss as it is occurring,” says Cowart.

In the back of her mind, Dianne thought she might need hospice services someday – and she did. She and her husband of 59 years, W.H. Cowart (also known as “Dub”, “Bill” or “Bart” to family and friends), found themselves needing hospice care in 2014. Mr. Cowart experienced declining health issues for several years including COPD, arthritis, and diabetes. The Cowarts chose to downsize and built a house next to their daughter’s pond.

Mr. Cowart never liked hospitals and didn’t want to stay in them for any length of time. He and Dianne had a few short conversations about end of life care, but he never questioned using hospice over being in a hospital. His family prepared for him to stay at home, where he enjoyed being able to get up and go through his routine, like enjoying his coffee on the porch in the mornings. Dianne says, “We were all able to step into normalcy as we knew what was going to happen. He treated his nurses and caregivers like friends who were stopping by to visit.”

The staff at Hospice of Tift Area cared for Mr. Cowart until he passed, the day after Valentine’s Day in 2014. The advice Dianne gives to families making the decision to use hospice is this: “If you are trying to decide whether hospice is the right choice for your loved one and family, it may feel like you are giving up. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have given up on your loved one; it’s just changing gears and providing them with the normalcy they may need.”

The Cowarts are just one of many families who have benefitted from the services provided by Hospice of Tift Area and enjoy attending the annual Tree of Life ceremony.

“The Tree of Life provides much needed aid to cancer, hospice or seriously-ill patients who are feeling financial pressures while undergoing treatment or care,” said Christie Moore, director of Hospice of Tift Area.  “The fund helps to pay for utility bills, groceries or special comforts.”

The decorative tree will be illuminated with a ceremonial pull of the switch by family members of patients who have received services from Hospice of Tift Area or the TRMC Oncology Center.

The evening will also feature live holiday music, a poignant candlelight ceremony and a visit from Santa Claus, as well as a free dinner presented by the TRMC Food Services Department. “Real” snow will even cover the ground.

In addition to enjoying the festivities, a tax-deductible gift can be made by purchasing a light for the Tree of Life in memory or honor of a friend, co-worker or loved one. Various giving levels are available. For more information about the Tree of Life or to make a contribution, call (229) 353-6318. Contribution forms can also be downloaded from www.tiftregional.com by clicking on the Tree of Life Link.