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Florence Hand hosts memorial for residents who died during pandemic

Families of Florence Hand Nursing Home residents who lost their lives during the pandemic gathered Tuesday night memorialize and celebrate their loved ones.

A total of 123 names were listed on a pamphlet and were honored on Tuesday night. Some of them had lost their life during COVID-19, but many of them died of causes unrelated.

“We are here this evening to honor your loved ones, your mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.” said Florence Hand bedside nurse Haylee Lowary. “You loaned them to us for a while. We’ve spent some time together over the years. We saw them first thing in the morning, and often tucked them in at night.”

The memorial was held outdoors in front of the Florence Hand facility. Guests remained in their cars, and a limited number of staff was allowed to be attendance. 

Lowary said the staff knew almost everything about their residents, including their favorite snack and how they take their coffee.

“We lost my husband’s dad Robert Maddox on July 16 to COVID,” said Amy Maddox. “He had breathing problems beforehand, which is one reason why he was here.”

Maddox said Robert was 78-year-old when he passed away from COVID-19. According to the Georgia Department of Community Health’s Long-Term Facility Care report, 15 nursing home residents from Florence Hand have died from COVID-19 this year.

“When the pandemic first hit, we weren’t too worried about it in the nursing home because Florence Hand does an incredible job,” Maddox said. “As soon as everything happened, which is unfortunate to us, they closed visitation down. We felt very safe and secure that they were going to protect him and which they did, even though he did get COVID. We felt very okay with him being here.”

Robert’s son, Tracey Maddox, said it was very special to watch the memorial, and he was thankful they brought everyone together.

“In some cases, their time here was brief and others, our relationship grew over years,” said Florence Hand hospital administrator Robin Lambeth. “As the families who have supported us through this process by visiting, sending packages, calling, writing and sending cards and photos, you day by day shared your thoughts and memories to help us better know the ones that you loved so dearly. Memories of the loved ones today I am sure are with you, but today I want you to know their memories are with us too.”

Lambeth said as they walk the halls of Florence Hand or walk into a room, they still see their past residents sitting by the window.

“Each of them played their role to make us better caregivers, better people,” Lambeth said. “I want to thank you for sharing your loved ones with us. I want to thank our staff for loving and caring for them while they were here. I want to thank our community for giving the opportunity to give back and make a difference.”

A candle was lit for every Florence Hand resident who passed away this year. 

“We’ve shared meals and holidays, and they’ve watched our children grow,” Lowary said.  “We’ve had fun times of games and parties and laughter. We’ve had sad times when sickness or troubles came. We’ve sat and listened to stories of their lives and came to know them not only as they are now, but how they were in their younger years. We share with them our lives, our families and our hearts.”

Lowary said even though they may not be blood related, they were a family.

“And when their days come to an end, we hurt and we grieve right along with you,” Lowary said. “We miss their faces, we miss their laughter, we miss their hugs. We give our condolences in this time of loss. Thank you for sharing your loved ones with us.”

As the ceremony came to an end, Theo Turman, head chaplain at WellStar West Georgia Medical Center, blessed the hands of Florence Hands nurses and staff members.

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