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An Unbreakable Bond

          In October of 2016, Cliff was admitted to the Seasons Hospice Inpatient Center at Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore. As Cliff watched his 8-year-old son, Peyton, guardedly enter his hospice inpatient center room, it took everything he had to muster a smile for him. You see, from the moment Cliff held his fragile, wrinkly, wondrous baby boy, he felt his heart swell in a way he had never before known. Little did he know how much he’d have to rely on his newfound love less than three weeks later. Cliff became a single parent to Peyton when his son was less than a month old. This new responsibility focused Cliff- he overcame some personal struggles and completely dedicated himself to being the single father Peyton needed so desperately. In fact, he became more than a father, he became Peyton’s best friend.  

         Eight years later, Cliff was diagnosed with rectal cancer when he was only 43 years old. As soon as he learned of his prognosis, he sat down with Peyton and explained his disease the best way he could to help his little boy understand what would happen. He wanted to be up front with his son, because honesty had always been the foundation of their relationship.

          As he neared the end of his life, even when he was experiencing severe pain, Cliff was still trying to be strong for Peyton- even if that only meant giving his son a little smile. The Seasons Maryland team worked together to ensure that his pain was managed and he was as comfortable as possible. As Cliff’s death became imminent, Peyton began acting out in school and at home. The anger of losing the only parent he ever had was more than he could handle. The Seasons team knew that they wanted to create a legacy project to help Peyton with his grieving process. With time running out and Cliff not having much strength to move or talk, they needed to come up with an idea quickly. Anne Hansen, Seasons Director of Supportive Care, presented the idea of creating a stepping stone to the team. Margot Allen, Seasons Social Worker, took charge of the legacy project and got everyone involved. Between the IV fluid machines and the cozy reclining chair that Cliff’s family spent many nights sleeping on to be by his side, the nurses in the inpatient center worked together to mix the cement and were able to capture Cliff’s handprint. His physicians, nurses, and stepmother, Eleanor, helped to decorate the stepping stone as Cliff was too weak to finish it. He passed away two days later.

         The Seasons team presented the finished stepping stone legacy project to Eleanor. Cliff’s father and Eleanor are now taking care of Peyton and plan on placing the stepping stone in their backyard. As the years go by and Peyton grows up playing “tag” with his friends or kicking around a soccer ball in the backyard, he will now have a reminder that his dad will still always be there for him.