Hospice Testimonials

Understand the meaning of hospice through the eyes of real patients, families, volunteers, and staff.

Sarah’s Experience

“What’s the old saying: ‘The only thing certain is death and taxes?’ Death and our tradition of saying goodbye is hard and overwhelming. But what a gift the Hospice House and Hospice in-home services are to support core physical and many other needs so that people can focus on their people, love, stories, and the sweet sad magic of saying goodbye.”

Sarah Rothenbuhler
Whatcom Hospice Foundation Board Member

Whatcom Hospice Foundation Board member Sarah Rothenbuhler is the owner of Birch Equipment Rental & Sales. Her inspired leadership has transformed her small local business into a nationally respected rental equipment company with stores in Washington and Alaska. Lucky for us, Sarah has also lent her entrepreneurial super powers to the task of raising funds and friends for Whatcom Hospice Foundation, and we couldn’t be happier.

For the third year in a row, Sarah will not just chair, but also run the Birch Equipment Hospice Pro-Am Golf Classic to be held Thursday, August 31 at Bellingham Golf and Country Club. Over the past two years, Sarah and her co-worker Jessie Everson have revamped the eleven year-old tournament into a one-day, sold-out event. Last year saw record-breaking revenue of over $250,000 to help terminally ill patients and their families in our community. See page 3 for more on this year’s tournament.

Sarah was invited to join the Whatcom Hospice Foundation Board of Directors in 1999 during the time she was working to revive and buyout Birch Equipment. She accepted without hesitation, recalling a poignant Hospice experience from her college days twelve years earlier:

“A bunch of buddies were back in Bellingham for summer break and planning to meet up for one last evening. Our friend Kip took a motorcycle out for a spin and there was never a chance to say goodbye, his funeral was a few days later. A week later I had to get back to my sophomore year at University of Colorado. It was another gut wrenching goodbye, this time to my beautiful cousin who was home from University of Washington and leaving soon in a different way. Sue had been fighting cancer like a champion since high school and she still lit up the room. Losing a buddy unexpectedly and then saying goodbye to a cousin who was like a sister – it changes you. My cousin was brave, full of grace and able to be at home, surrounded by family and friends with the support of Hospice caregivers. Having those moments and those conversations is a bittersweet reminder to live and appreciate those around you. Who knows what’s to come?”

Sarah’s passion and commitment to community is clear through her direction that her company Birch Equipment give a minimum of $100,000 back to community each year, totaling approximately $2 million dollars in the past 17 years. Whatcom Hospice has been one of the many recipients of this generosity. Her leadership in driving the 2016 Pro-Am to record-breaking success was all the more impressive since the tournament was held during the same time two of her close loved-ones were being served at Hospice House while another dear friend was being served through Hospice home care.

“It was a tough few months and there are a lot of us still really missing those guys. But there is so much to be grateful for.” Sarah is very thankful for Whatcom Hospice’s outstanding care of her loved ones and the “sad, sweet magic of saying goodbye.”

Steve’s Experience

By Bob Tull, Whatcom Hospice Foundation Board

As a long-time Board member and Past President of Whatcom Hospice Foundation, I have always been moved by stories of patients and families who have been touched by the work of hospice. But I could not really know until my own brother’s illness how much Whatcom Hospice services mean to families and individuals at a difficult time of life.

In March of 2013 my younger brother Steve moved from his home in Seattle to reside in our Hospice House. He died there at the end of May. Steve was a fit, vital, sweet and caring father, husband, brother, friend and professional who spent the last eighteen months of his life fighting brain cancer.

When he could no longer remain at home, he agreed to come to Bellingham. Three of his brothers live here and his son attends Western Washington University. Other siblings live nearby, so Steve and his wife, Andrea, could see a balance of care, comfort and convenience was achievable here.

I can tell all of you—my friends and my community—that the services provided at the Hospice House and by the Hospice program are as good as we have always said they were. I’ve seen it. It’s true. The facility is truly excellent. The program is flexible. The people are especially good.

When Steve arrived at Hospice House, the staff let us know right away that his end-of-life experience was ours to shape. They gave us wide latitude to be as involved and present as we needed to be. We made certain that Steve was surrounded with loving support almost every waking hour. I brought in a family heirloom chair to help seat his many visitors, and set up a barbecue on his private patio to cook steaks and chicken and fish for Steve and the clan.

Through it all, the Hospice Team could not have been more accommodating. They knew what we needed at every step of the way. Thanks to their expert management of Steve’s care, he was able to go on several outings, including movies, drives, and even dinners out. Sometimes we just sat in the sun.

Experiencing Hospice services first-hand from the perspective of a family member was important for me. I now fully understand how important it is that we continue to provide the depth and breadth of support to patients and families who are coping with terminal illness.

More than ever before, I feel a deep sense of commitment to ensuring that these services are available to every patient in need, regardless of their ability to pay. Steve had resources; others do not. Your support makes all the difference in ensuring that every patient receives the Hospice care they need. Please consider making a gift to Whatcom Hospice Foundation today.

Robert M. Tull
Whatcom Hospice Foundation Board of Directors

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