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January 03, 2017

Jean Marie Stockton
Director of Clinical Services, West

Editor’s note: Jean Marie Stockton, director of clinical services for Hospice of the Valley’s West office, is the agency’s longest tenured employee—35 years.

1981 was a pivotal year in my life’s journey as I had the privilege of joining Hospice of the Valley. At the time I could not have begun to envision what we would become and the marvelous ways in which we would grow.

It would be impossible to record all the memories, but along the way, the one constant is that they all involve wonderful people—patients/families/colleagues/educators--who have taught me the joy, peace, love and compassion that go along with serving.

Being hired by two of the most compassionate women I could have hoped to know—Mary Audrey Mellor and Blanche Hopkins Wenge—was the start of the journey. They taught me the heart and soul of what it means to be a hospice nurse—leading by example.

Spending my first seven years as a “real nurse,” as I often say, gave me a wonderful foundation to understand the realities of the work which helps me in my role today.

My first summer making home visits in a car without AC has never been forgotten. Or the many nights of fielding calls while heading across town to a death visit—no cell phones, no computers—only a pager that buzzed, meaning I had to call the answering service from the nearest pay phone to see who needed me next.

So many patients that have left a mark on my life never to be forgotten:  the beautiful family in Scottsdale where I met one of my favorite volunteers, Nancy Wissink, who would cross my path again when her daughter Debbie Shumway joined HOV; our first AIDS patient who taught us that we didn’t need to be afraid; the 21-year-old who denied death until her last breath; the patient who taught me it was ok to embrace silence; the former car salesman who liked to fill me with pie and coffee before I left and “took to his bed” for only the last weekend to ensure his wife wouldn’t be burdened by his disease.

I have had the experience to grow and be mentored in leadership by inspirational people such as our previous directors—Joan Lowell and Susan Levine. It is impossible to name countless other staff that impact my life’s work every day: a CNA who recently graced my door to share a story of the care of a patient; a chaplain who facilitated a memorial service for a friend whose family was so grateful for our care; a nurse who attended the “Friday at 5 p.m.” death visit when it would have been just as easy to send it to After Hours; a social worker who tirelessly worked to facilitate a patient’s move to a safe environment; coordinators who help us find volunteers to support our patients; bereavement staff who not only care for our families but our own staff when we have been in need.

Through all the years, I have not only had the pleasure of knowing our staff  but also getting to know many of their family members and celebrating births, graduations, weddings, a farewell of retirement or a final passing. We often call ourselves a family and we do seem to spend the better part of our days with each other so it is impossible to not feel to the core the joys and sorrows that accompany our lives.

I enjoy watching young men and women grow into positions of responsibility, ensuring a bright future for HOV. The stories are endless and interesting, challenging and rewarding. I am aware of how truly blessed I am to have had these special experiences and a future that is secure with even more exciting changes on the horizon.