Billie and Brenda Parker discover Hospice is about living

Published 5:53 pm Friday, November 19, 2010

When Billie Parker and his wife, Brenda, talk about their home place, it is Home with a capital H. Home to them is as much a state of mind as a place. Billies family has made a living off their Fox Mountain acreage for decades, plowing with horses as they planted and harvested corn for their hogs, goats, cattle and chickens.

That is why it is particularly surprising that the man sitting in his comfortable living room tells the story one sunny afternoon of how he actually enjoyed his recent stay at Hospice of the Carolina Foothills Hospice House in Landrum. Its also a little hard to grasp that the man with the broad smile and good humor is seriously ill. His conversation, peppered with chuckles, is all about bird feeders, farming and fishing.

That pastoral life is part of why Billie did initially balk at the idea of going to the Hospice House for a brief spell when he was too ill to stay at home. To tell the truth, I had always thought Hospice was about death about dying. I found out different, he says.

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Going to the Hospice House was like going on a vacation to a resort, he says. I have never seen doctors and nurses who treat people like they do. When he didnt eat for three days, he tells a fish story about how chef Kevin Fisher came around and asked him what hed like to eat. When I said fish! says Billie grinning, he went back to the kitchen and fried up a big piece of catfish. I ate the whole thing.

Everybody goes out of their way to make it nice, Billie says. Its not about dying; its about the quality of your life, adds Brenda. Hospice House is a true blessing, the two say almost in unison.

But there was a time, Brenda says, when quality of life was the last thing on her husbands mind. When he first became sick, Billie just sat in his recliner, pulled the curtains and turned out the lights. He gave up, she says.

Then longtime friend and neighbor Dee Preston came over and said, Get up, Billie, were going fishing. And so they did, heading out to Lake Hartwell to catch a mess of crappie. That was a turning point for Billie. He realized then that he still had a life to live.

When it came time for his stay at Hospice House, he had no problem with it. It seemed like just another step on his journey rather than something final. Hospice didnt just help him. Hospice helped me, Brenda says.

And Billie made his mark at Hospice House as well, helping his favorite resort add to its outdoor dcor with one of his handmade bird feeders. Chef Kevin hung it where residents could see hungry birds coming for sustenance, a fitting tribute to Hospice and Billies lifelong love of nature.