Lester’s Story

I have the privilege of sharing my story with you in the hope that you will make a gift today to support Hospice of Lansing and Stoneleigh Residence. This local non-profit has been a gift, both for me and for two people whom I love. My experiences with Hospice of Lansing and Stoneleigh Residence have made me an advocate for the personable hospice care which they provide. I know the need for their medical expertise and compassionate care is very great right now.

My most recent hospice story was four years ago with my dad, Lester Stark. He was born near and lived almost his entire life on Duck Lake just north of Albion-his favorite place on earth.

Dad served in the Army during World War II. After the war he married his high school sweetheart, and they were inseparable companions. Together they built a large network of friends in their community and neighborhood at Duck Lake. Dad owned his own business for 37 years and was active in many service groups and clubs. He was best known and respected for his leadership roles during 70 years as a member and officer at Duck Lake Country Club. During his retirement he also became a public servant, serving as the Clarence Township Supervisor for over 13 years.

Dad was left alone when my mother died suddenly in 1997. He was a man of his time and after her death he had to learn how to do laundry, use the microwave and shop for groceries. His stubbornness and resiliency enabled him to do whatever he needed to do to stay in his home on the lake in the community he loved. He learned how to manage living by himself, with his dog as his constant buddy.

Dad didn’t focus on what he had lost. He chose to move forward and enjoy the time he was given. He enjoyed golfing, socializing and late afternoon “happy hours” when he could be found at the bar in his home spending time with friends, his beloved Miller High Life beer in hand. My husband and I moved our family to the Lansing area and for 17 years we visited Dad often. We sat on his deck, enjoyed the lake, and shared good laughs. 

Dad dealt with serious health issues but was able to move beyond them in time. However, in 2017, when he was diagnosed with a lymphoma cancer, he needed extra support. He hired others to help prepare meals and do household chores. We, as a family, came often to help with the yard and other details. I took him to all medical appointments and helped manage his health care. When his health continued to decline, we hired a home health service. I would also stay with him for several days at a time. We did everything we could so he could remain in his home.

I knew of Stoneleigh Residence because I had been there with a friend during her last weeks of life. I saw and experienced the wonderful support and medical care she received. I considered this for my dad even though it would mean leaving his home.

Soon Dad could no longer ignore the fact that he needed more help. My siblings came from out of state to help with his care. I knew it was time to consider Stoneleigh and had already spoken to Dad about it. We had a family conference, and he made the final decision to move to Stoneleigh.

Even though I knew it was best for Dad, it broke my heart when we drove away from Duck Lake, knowing he would never come back.

When Dad got to Stoneleigh, he was pretty gruff with the staff. They quickly saw through his pain and started to engage in the “lively conversations” he loved. The doctors adjusted his medication and Dad was finally pain free. Being at Stoneleigh gave me great sense of relief. I was able to be his daughter and not his caretaker and medical advocate.

My husband and I spent our days and evenings at Stoneleigh. We continued to honor Dad’s lifestyle including “happy hour” with Miller High Life in the little refrigerator in his room. We played cards and laughed together. Dad enjoyed watching the birds, turkeys, and deer outside.

In early March 2018, he passed peacefully; my husband, son, and I together, by his side. The emotional support I felt during my dad’s stay at Stoneleigh was more than I could have imagined. I came away from it all knowing with all my heart, that Stoneleigh is a safe place to be during the last stage of life, and death is treated as “normal.” I’m so thankful for Stoneleigh’s help in giving dad quality of life during his last days and the kind of death everyone deserves.

Please join me in supporting Hospice of Lansing and Stoneleigh Residence and send your gift today. More than ever, families are choosing hospice care for their loved ones, and we need to keep Hospice of Lansing and Stoneleigh Residence fully funded and available to everyone in their time of need.

It was an honor to share my dad’s story with you. Won’t you consider making a gift in honor or memory of your loved one today?

Gratefully yours,

LouAnn Stark-Dykema