MUSKEGON, MI – She spent the first few minutes fixing her hair and applying a light coat of makeup. These days, excitement is rare and she wasn’t going to be unprepared for it.
After being helped to her armchair and greeted with polite conversation, Mary Dec beams at the presentation of a bouquet of flowers. Her voice barely audible, she closes her eyes and takes a deep inhale, her memories rushing back between the stems of the pink and yellow assortment.
And, for a moment, Dec is back in her home in the Lakeside Neighborhood, where she kept a garden, raised a family and spent the better part of nine decades on this earth.
Then, her eyes open again. She’s returned to an enclosed room in the Christian Care Nursing Center in Muskegon, her recollections and regrets in the rearview mirror, the bouquet destined for a spot on the table next to her bed.
These small flashes are the goal of a new joint partnership between Hospice of Michigan and Wasserman’s Flowers and Gifts in Muskegon.
Through the partnership, Wasserman’s donates eight to 10 bouquets of flowers each month to Hospice of Michigan, which, in turn, delivers them to Muskegon-area hospice care patients.
“We reached out earlier to Wasserman’s, a local florist and a local company,” said Claire Fisher, volunteer services coordinator for Hospice of Michigan. “We asked if once a month, they could donate bouquets to our patients. It puts a smile on their faces and it’s wonderful to know it’s brought to you by Wasserman’s because it’s showing that local flair of support.”
Since the partnership began in August, volunteers have delivered flowers to at least 25 patients with Dec being visited multiple times. Fisher said the program is similar to one Hospice of Michigan maintains in Grand Rapids, but the organization felt it could be beneficial in Muskegon as well.
Fisher reached out to Wasserman’s earlier this year to try to start a version of the program in Muskegon and for Angie Wasserman-Nelund, co-owner of Wasserman’s, the partnership made sense as part of the business’ ongoing commitment to community outreach in the area.
“Well, I really liked the idea,” she said. “I felt like it was a way; we’re always looking for ways to help in the community and show some joy to those families and their recipients during that most difficult time.”
The program also allows for extended interactions with patients, ones treasured both by the patients and those interacting with them.
Social worker Jennifer Cernisse is tasked with meeting with many of the hospice patients and she’s made it her specialty to learn about each of them.
“It’s about understanding where they are in that space and having the empathy to be able to approach them,” Cernisse said. “It’s understanding whether they are sweet as pie like Mary or whether they are angry and mad at the world, that’s their space, that’s their emotion and they are entitled to it. So with that, you just meet them where they are and work from there.”
As the program continues, Fisher said she plans to grow it and scale it appropriately, eventually hoping to lure other partners to keep it alive. But she feels if it can brighten the day of patients like Dec, the program will be a success.
For more information or to provide a donation to Hospice of Michigan, visit them online at hom.org.