Michele Koser has countless memories with her father, David “Dave” Shafer, from riding on the back of his bike as a child and eating chocolate ice cream at Baskin-Robbins to their countless dinners out together as adults. When Michele had two children of her own, her favorite memories revolved around the bond her father shared with her children.
“I was very close to my dad. He was always my rock,” Michele said. “He was a hard worker and dedicated to his wife and children.”
Michele’s mother endured several medical issues in her late 40s, which put great responsibility and pressure on Michele’s father to take care of Michele and her two siblings.
“He never had thoughts to walk away, only to provide and ensure we all had what we needed,” Michele recalled. “Everyone knew him as a person who was always pleasant, smiling and someone who wanted everyone else to be happy. He would do anything to make that happen.”
After Michele’s mother passed away, Michele and her husband decided to add in-law quarters to their home, so they could care for Dave in the future.
In 2009, sooner than Michele expected, Dave began enduring his own health issues. He developed hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid in the cavities within the brain, and shortly after began suffering from Parkinson’s, dementia and complications from diabetes.
“My dad made a vow to his family and to my mom,” Michele said. “I felt I owed it back to him to do the same. It was my turn to take care of him.”
While working as a social worker and raising her two children, Michele became her father’s caregiver. Though she also had her husband as a support system, there were still stresses that came from caregiving. However, Michele recalls twice as many benefits.
“Being a caregiver requires dedication and, at times, devoting 100% of your life and time,” Michele said, “but my children got to have their grandfather with them from day one and build memories. I truly believe my dad was with us so long because of the care we were able to give him and being around his family every day. It took a tribe.”
As Dave’s conditions worsened, Michele, with some guidance from loved ones and medical professionals, decided it was time to pursue comfort care for her father.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Michele said, “but the Masonic Village Hospice team was amazing. The care they gave my dad was above and beyond. Dad would light up when they would arrive and say, ‘Good morning, handsome.’ No matter what day it was or what time of day it was, they were available. ”
Bob Heim, Dave’s hospice nurse, built a special bond with the family, and kept Dave comfortable and at peace.
“Bob knew my son was going to graduate high school,” Michele recalled. “He knew how much we wanted Dad to attend the graduation, and Bob did absolutely everything he could to try to make it happen.”
“Ever since I was little, my Grandpa was always there for me,” Michele’s son, Cullen, said, “from teaching me to shave, to talking about girls. He was the kind of man who could make anyone smile, even on their darkest days.”
Unfortunately, Michele’s dad could not fight any longer.
“Hospice helped prepare me, but it was absolutely the hardest thing to deal with,” Michele said. “You don’t want to be selfish, but it’s so hard when you can’t imagine not seeing that person every day.”
More than just health care support, hospice provided emotional support throughout Dave’s death.
His nurse’s aide, Samantha Sheaffer, connected with Michele’s daughter, Makayla, who struggled with her grandfather’s death.
“She knew what Makayla was experiencing,” Michele said. “She had lost both her parents and had a daughter my daughter’s age who had lost her grandfather, too.”
“He was my best friend, my hero and my light in a dark room,” Makayla said. “He showed me what hard work and dedication looks like.”
“It meant the world that the staff made a connection with my daughter,” Michele said. “We felt comfortable and safe with them.”
Looking back, Michele, who was at first fearful of obtaining hospice services, says she couldn’t have made it through without them.
“At first, hospice scared me. I felt like I was signing my dad up to die, and that I was giving up on him,” Michele said. “Now, I recommend Masonic Village Hospice when I encounter situations that could benefit.”
Most importantly, Hospice helped Michele keep her father at home, a place where he will always be missed.
“There are still days I drive in my driveway and hope to see his smiling face,” Michele said.
Michele has made it through the first year after losing her father. Hospice helped show her that the roller coaster of emotions she was experiencing was normal. You learn to cope, but never stop missing the ones you love.
“My dad taught us all to never let anything take you down without a good fight,” Michele said. “He had a heart of gold.”