A mother’s strength is unparalleled. Chad Thomas’ mother, Eileen, was no exception.

Eileen was Chad’s rock, his phone call on the way home after work in the evening.

It didn’t surprise Chad to learn that when his mother was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2013, she first thought of her family and how they would cope with the journey ahead.

“She was protective of the family and didn’t want us to worry,” Chad recalls. “No matter what she was going through, she never complained.”

Eileen always had a heart for caring for others. She was heavily involved in her church, in the lives of her eight cherished grandchildren and in her position in the registrar’s office at Gettysburg College.

“She touched the lives of so many people,” Chad recalls. “She used to take foreign exchange students under her wing to make sure they had someone to check in on them and someplace to go during the holidays. She got so many calls from grateful students and parents.”

As her disease progressed, Eileen had one goal in mind – to make it to her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband, Kenneth. Years of advanced treatments had taken a toll on Eileen, but she did joyfully meet her goal. Chad and his siblings, Eric and Molly, held a 50th anniversary party for their parents (pictured above), complete with a dinner and the couple’s best man in attendance.

Soon after, Eileen’s doctor informed the family that it was time to explore options for comfort care. Masonic Village Hospice was the family’s first choice.

“Even though everyone knew it was just going to be a short amount of time, hospice wanted to get to know her,” Chad said. “One night, while Dad and I were having dinner, they sat down and talked with us.”

Chad was most comforted knowing the hospice team would respect all of his mother’s wishes.

“She didn’t want to be on strong pain medication,” Chad recalls. “She didn’t like the way she felt on them, and she wanted control. Hospice talked to our family and followed those wishes. The team was there to help support us every step of the way.”

In September 2019, Chad and his family participated in a butterfly release hosted by Masonic Village Hospice. The event, which took place at a park in Lititz, included a service and a therapeutic release of more than 200 butterflies in memory of lost loved ones.

“It was a nice event,” Chad said. “My kids released the butterflies for our family. I work in Lititz, so over the next week, I kept seeing butterflies, which reminded me of Mom.”

Over the last few months, each member of Chad’s family has been grieving in their own way.

“We all deal with things differently,” Chad said, “but hospice has reached out to us a few times to ask if there’s anything they can do. I think it was great that they provided literature on how to talk to children about loss. We appreciated that.”

The Thomases will be reminded of Eileen’s strength as they heal and move forward as a family.