Let me begin by wishing you and yours a healthy and happy Thanksgiving. While it’s customary to reflect on topics that typically assail us around this time of year – preparations for getting together with family and friends, perhaps the long-postponed travel to visit family, anticipating good food and reunions – I want to focus instead on thanking people who made a difference in our lives, individuals who inspired us to be better, the friends who stood by us when times were tough.
I’m grateful many people who believed in me when frankly, I had doubts about my capacity to succeed. I hold up Ivadell as a role model and one of many individuals who inspired me to create The Amazing Care Network. I met Ivadell when she was 89 years old, and I was assigned to her as a Hospice volunteer in Hawaii. She told me that she moved to Hawaii when she was 75 years old as her husband of 58 years had passed away and she wanted to experience something new.
Ivadell started a new life in Hawaii when she was 75 years old! She knew no one in Hawaii nor did she have family who could have helped her connect with others. Honolulu can be tough to be break in, especially when one does not have family or friends who can open the door to new relationships. And yet, when I met her, she was busy with her church and social activities. She had grown up poor in South Dakota and knew that connecting with others was key to survival.
Ivadell and I met every week and she taught me SO much. I was then running Kaiser Hawaii, and she opened my eyes to how a big national organization treated medically frail older people. Thanks to Ivadell, many changes were made to make the patient experience kinder to older people at Kaiser.
When she was a young woman, she dreamed of going to a fancy restaurant, an opportunity denied her given her background. I then belonged to a private dining club in Honolulu, and we agreed that we would have a “ladies’ lunch” there. She asked me to buy her gloves when I was in San Francisco. Her vision of dining out in a fancy place was rooted in the 1950’s when women dressed up, wore gloves and a hat. I had briefed the staff at The Pacific Club about Ivadell, and they made the experience so lovely for Ivadell that she talked about it for weeks! Words fail to describe the impact of such kindness on Ivadell.
We had hoped to celebrate her 90th birthday together. Sadly, she would pass before that milestone. On my last visit, I could only see her for thirty minutes as her network of friends and colleagues had grown to such an extent that our time was rationed. Imagine such a feat for a woman who created a social network from scratch at age 75!
I end this note with profound thanks to Ivadell who helped me understand that age is no barrier to creating new relationships and nurturing current ones. She gave wings to an idea that is now a reality through the Amazing Care Network. She has enriched my life in so many ways, and I am deeply and humbly grateful. And I thank each of you for being part of my network. Ivadell would be so proud of us!