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Fishin' For a Memory

If you asked Seasons Hospice patient John Wood what some of his favorite memories include, he’ll tell you without hesitation, “Fishing.”

An avid fisher and hunter, John remembers many days spent out in the Alabama wilderness like they were yesterday: the crickets chirping in the distance while the sun gently rose over his fishing pole; the chilly breeze seeping through his jacket on a November morning as he sat shivering in his duck blind; waiting for the misty river to clear and the ducks to pop up.   They fondly remember humid, sticky afternoons fishing, hoping to catch a big bass; but instead sweating in the heat and laughing,just grateful to be with each other. 

When John and Carolyn were diagnosed with cancer, they thought those days were over. 

Upon learning of their diagnoses, they moved from Alabama to Tampa, choosing to live with their granddaughter, who is a medical professional, and her family. They started care with Seasons Hospice, hoping to spend the rest of their days with their family. 

John still had one wish though: to go fishing one last time.  He mentioned his desire to his Seasons Chaplain, Cary Young.  Carolyn wanted to join as well, and they asked to make it a family affair, bringing along their two great-grandchildren Paisley and Parker. 

Though it seemed far-fetched, Cary was determined to make it happen.

Everyone knew this would be no easy feat.  Both John and Carolyn are on continuous oxygen supplies; both would need to use a wheel chair for this activity. Given their frail condition, they would have to be closely monitored by a health professional the whole time, which would be expensive and logistically very tricky. 

That didn’t stop Cary from jumping into action. She easily talked the Wood’s nurse, Patty, into joining the day, and was able to get another Seasons employee, Miriam, to volunteer her photography skills. Staff from Seasons Tampa donated many of the items for the day, including the use of three brand new fresh water fishing poles.  We then secured medical transport to Lettuce Lake Park, with funds provided by Seasons Hospice Foundation.

The park has a handicap-accessible trail and boardwalk with shaded areas; prime spots for Granny and Pa to sit back and fish with Parker and Paisley. 

The morning of the trip started with a family favorite: breakfast by Chik-Fil-A, provided by Seasons Hospice foundation. 

But the real fun started at Lettuce Lake Park. Our three staff members, along with Paisley and Parker, wheeled Carolyn and John down the boardwalk, oxygen tanks and all, with the cypress and oak trees offering them some solace from the hot Florida sun.
As they wheeled over the river on the creaking boardwalk, the family was greeted by calls from tricolor herons, watched osprey take flight, and even caught a quick view of a family of turtles before they dove into the brackish water.  

A wave of energy rolled over John and Carolyn as they made their way out across the dock. Once the perfect fishing spot was found, John slowly got up from his chair, shaking off the help nurse Patty was offering. He was determined to lure his own hook and teach Parker and Paisley how to do the same.

Carolyn joined them, dropping her own line in the murky river water. A nip here and there on the pole, an exclamation from Carolyn, a laugh from the kids, but no luck. On it went, for nearly two hours!

But the trip wasn’t about catching fish; it was about making memories. Parker and Paisley couldn’t stop smiling as they learned fishing tips from two real “pros.” Pa reminded the kids how important patience is in life, even outside of fishing. Granny reminded them to nurture their bond as siblings and always set aside quality time for family.  
It was a quiet, reflective drive home; everyone was tired but filled with joy from the excursion. John and Carolyn couldn’t stop thanking our staff. They were thrilled that one last time they were able to create a special memory together. More importantly, they were thankful that one of the last memories their great grandchildren will have with them is a happy one. Their words, their actions and their love through this memory will stay with their family for years to come.