Don and Nellie Revelle were married nearly 41 years. In early September, Don underwent surgery to remove a throat cancer, which had recurred.
During surgery, a much larger area of cancer was discovered. Surgeon Brian Romaneschi, an ear, nose and throat specialist, concurred with an oncologist that Don's condition was terminal.
"We only had two weeks from when we got him home until he died," said Nellie. "The second week he was in a coma.
"But it was important to him he be at home. His family was everything to him."
Nellie said Don knew he was dying and they had talked about death.
"He wasn't afraid of dying," she said. "He was a big family man and he wanted to be home, with his family."
St. Mary's Hospice was referred for the Revelle family by Romaneschi. Hospice workers made their first visit to Don while he was in Carson-Tahoe Hospital being treated for pneumonia.
"We contract with the family - they are in charge," said Chaplain Jody Lediard. "We tell them what hospice can do for them, and encourage them to live as well as they can and as fully as possible.
"Take trips if the patient can physically tolerate it, and we encourage them to spend time with their family."
Lediard said the chaplain offers whole-person care - body, mind and spirit.
Nellie is parish secretary at St. Paul's Lutheran Family church in Carson City. She, in addition to her family, has a deep Christian faith, which helped when she needed to talk to her children and grandchildren about death.
"Spiritual care means different things to different people," Lediard said. "It's how we find our comfort and strength. Religion is only one way care is expressed. And care is for the whole family, not just the patient.
"And we may be able to answer questions the family's church can't," she added. "Sometimes they need someone outside their church community to talk to."
"They helped me a lot," said 13-year-old Kyle Matsko, one the Revelle's grandsons, who attends Dayton Intermediate School.
"They answered questions and Chaplain Jody helped me make a memory box for Papa."
Kyle's small, unfinished wooden box has keepsakes offering fond memories of his grandfather. A Los Angeles Kings hockey puck (Papa was a big sports fan), a miniature Zamboni from a keychain, trading cards, a miniature puck, a Canadian flag keychain (he was born in Canada and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1967), and an American Airlines keychain, for which Revelle worked for 38 years. He also has a copy of the obituary from the newspaper because it has his photo, and Kyle doesn't want to forget what his Papa looked like.
"On the front, I have a rainbow," Kyle said. "Because he loved the rain. It was his favorite weather.
"When he died, it had rained and then there was a rainbow. He got both of what he liked when he died."
Mature beyond his years, Kyle is able to discuss his grandfather in a positive and loving manner through the talks he had with the hospice team.
"We meet the needs of the age level," Lediard said. "They need to understand and we try to explain death when they're able to question. Usually at about 4, 5, or 6 years of age.
"And the memory boxes can be added to as time go on, because memories don't stop."
Nellie said she was thankful for the professional care St. Mary's Hospice offered. The team taught her how to give medications and keep Don comfortable.
"I never thought I could do those things," she said. "And the social worker, Jennifer Pahl, was a terrific help. I was on an emotional roller coaster. I was angry, grieving. Everybody handles it differently and I found out it is normal. People think you have to put on a pretend face.
"The clinical help, moral support and counseling - it was amazing. They made what was a terrible experience, bearable. They held our hands and hearts through the process. These people are nothing short of angels. They cried and prayed with us. We were not alone."
Hospice care for the family does not stop after death has occurred. The hospice team keeps in contact with the family for 13 months after the patient's death through phone calls, cards and letters.
"We remind them of quarterly meetings of the Tears and Rainbows support group," said Lediard. "It's not for everyone, but it helps them make sense of what has happened to them and it renews relationships."
Don Revelle died Oct. 2, 2004, at home of cancer. He was 72 years old. In addition to Nellie and Kyle, he is survived by daughters Karen Revelle of Dayton, Cheryl Ewing of Fernley, and Debbie Bottieri of El Segundo, Calif.; grandchildren Courtney Woo of Fernley and Ryan Revelle of Fernley, and many nieces and nephews.
n Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1223.
St. Mary's Hospice Care
Where: Service available throughout Northern Nevada
Number of staff: 126 - includes volunteers, physicians and nurses
In Carson City: 58
St. Mary's also offers in-depth training for those who want to volunteer. The next training sessions will be held in September in Carson City and Reno.
Information: www.saintmarysreno.com/hospice or 770-3081