Graduation Day

Updated on June 28, 2013
Family Hospice staff members treasure the special moments with patients and families.
Family Hospice staff members treasure the special moments
with patients and families.

By Franco Insana

It was a Wednesday morning before nine o’clock when Karen picked up the phone and called Greg.  “We have a special event that’s going to take place soon, and I wanted to ask if you would take pictures for the family?” she asked.

Karen is the RN inpatient unit manager at Family Hospice’s Center for Compassionate Care in Mt. Lebanon. She placed her call to our communications office, where Greg works as our marketing manager.

At Family Hospice and Palliative Care, we are privileged to share special bonds and precious moments with those we serve on a daily basis. The letters and cards we get from families help us realize that even the smallest gestures make a difference.

To call what was about to take place on this late-May morning at The Center for Compassionate Care a “special event” almost doesn’t do it justice.

Karen explained to Greg that there was a 52 year-old mother in our inpatient center, stricken with cancer, who was actively dying.  Her last wish was to see her son graduate high school before she died.

Our team went to work: contacting the son’s high school principal and making arrangements for her to come to the patient’s room and present the diploma. Things came together rather quickly. Shortly after nine, Greg got the call to come to the room with the camera because the ceremony was about to begin.

Not only did the principal supply the cap and gown for the son, she made sure the ceremony was official by wearing her own academic gown as well. With the patient’s husband at her side, the son and principal entered the room to the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance”, thanks to one of our nurses playing it on her phone for the whole room to hear.

At the foot of the bed, the principal made it official, presenting the young man with his high school diploma and making mom’s wish come true. “You got your wish honey – you got to see him graduate,” the husband said.

It was then that the mom found enough strength to crack a smile. Her wish was granted.

Fighting back tears, the family gathered around the bed for photos with mom and the new graduate. Some Family Hospice staff had gathered in the room to support the family and offer congratulations to the young man. And within minutes, photos were delivered to the family so the moment could be remembered.

Just a couple hours later, with family at her side, the patient died.

For those of us who witnessed the ceremony, that event stayed with us the rest of the day. We found ourselves pondering the plight of this family and how easy it is to take for granted the special events we experience.

We were also thankful for the opportunity to play a small part in giving this family a moment to cherish.

When we get to our desks in the morning and the first call of the day comes in – we never know how it will impact us moving forward. In this case, it turned out to be the most important thing that happened all day.

I’m proud to report that this graduation day event is an example of how Family Hospice’s mission of CompassionateCare(SM) is brought to life. As an organization, we try to remember that for every “Graduation Day” there is an event, a day, a gesture that will forever hold special meaning for those we serve.

Franco Insana is the Interim CEO and full-time Chief Financial Officer of Family Hospice and Palliative Care. He has more than 25 years experience in business and accounting, particularly in the health care and non-profit environments. He may be reached at [email protected] or (412) 572-8800. Family Hospice and Palliative Care serves nine counties in Western Pennsylvania. More information at and

+ posts

Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.