ROCHESTER — Traveling the globe took Lorraine and Edward Chlebowski far away from St. Stanislaus Parish, where they were baptized, attended elementary school together and were married.
During their 64 years as husband and wife, the Chlebowskis traveled to Europe and South America. Nature lovers, they visited nearly every national park in the continental United States, and they traveled to Alaska and Hawaii. They also celebrated their anniversary each year with cocktails at Letchworth State Park.
But their journey together ended June 22, 2008, at the Palliative Center for Caring at St. Ann’s Community. The five-bed inpatient center provides short-term end-of-life care for patients who would otherwise require hospitalization. The 2-year-old center is a partnership of St. Ann’s Community and Visiting Nurse Service of Rochester and Monroe County.
"We wanted it to be a place of comfort, of peace, of quiet and a dedicated place to meet the needs of individuals at the end of their lives," said Beth Dorscheid, vice president of clinical services for Visiting Nurse Service and former director of the organization’s hospice program.
On July 30, Edward Chlebowski attended a remembrance ceremony at the St. Ann’s Home chapel to recall those who received hospice care at the Palliative Center for Caring. The ceremony featured music led by Catholic musician Dawn Chmiel, prayers, reflections, photographs and the recitation of names of some of the more than 370 people who have died at the center since the first patient was admitted July 17, 2007.
"We believe our ties of friendship and affection which knit us together for our life do not unravel with death," Father Peter Bayer, director of pastoral care at St. Ann’s Home, said to the group.
The remembrance ceremony was another way that the center’s staff could offer spiritual salve to the families of former patients.
Barbara Spoonhower, a parishioner of St. Paul Parish in Webster, said that staff helped her mother, Gloria Natale, deal both physically and emotional with her death. Natale died July 17, 2008.
"She had not faced death yet, and they helped her to do that," Spoonhower said.
After the remembrance ceremony was over, Edward Chlebowski pulled out a photograph of Lorraine’s smile and a picture of their yard. She was known as the "geranium lady" of the neighborhood, he said, pointing out the scarlet geraniums he planted in her honor this year.
He said his wife fought multiple battles against breast cancer, but she remained active even just days before entering the Palliative Center for Caring. As her caregiver up until her final days, he made a pact with her that she would stay in bed or in a chair when he ran to the grocery store, so that she wouldn’t fall while he was out of the house.
"To put up with me for 64 years, she’s going to heaven," he remarked.