Planting the Seeds of Compassion

Updated on June 24, 2013

By Rafael J. Sciullo, MA, LCSW, MS

It was a particularly warm and bright Sunday in July. The rays of the sun made the plants and flowers look robust and vibrant. The perfect day to host visitors.

Hundreds of people visited that day. Despite the heat, they happily toured the outdoors admiring the plants and flowers. “Beautiful.” “Peaceful.” “An ideal setting.” These were among the comments we heard.

Family Hospice and Palliative Care was proud to be a featured stop on the 2012 Mt. Lebanon Public Library Garden Tour. The garden courtyard and colorful plant life at our Center for Compassionate Care (inpatient center and administrative offices) were in full bloom. More than 300 visitors came by that day.

The Garden Tour is an annual event where gardeners open their spaces to the public in support of the Mt. Lebanon Public Library. At Family Hospice, we are privileged to offer our gardens for the enjoyment and peaceful meditation of our patients, their loved ones and our staff.

Guests visit the garden courtyard at The Center for Compassionate Care during the Mt. Lebanon Garden Tour.
Guests visit the garden courtyard at The Center for Compassionate Care during the Mt. Lebanon Garden Tour.

Think about the places where you find peace and quiet. For some, it’s lying on a beach with your eyes closed, listening to the waves. For others, a walk in the park. For many of us, it is the beauty and tranquility of a favorite garden. Colorful flowers, lush greens and a gentle breeze provide just the right atmosphere for meditation and relaxation.

A couple walked into the garden during the tour and approached one of our volunteers, saying: “We lived out of town for a number of years and just moved back a few months ago. Our friend was here at The Center for Compassionate Care. His wife told us it was beautiful  –  but we had no idea how lovely your gardens were until we saw them for ourselves.”

The volunteer proceeded to talk about the various plants, potted flowers and water fountain that serves as the center point of the courtyard. Then the couple took a seat on one of the benches, reflecting on their friend’s experience at The Center for Compassionate Care.

Many others took photographs as they strolled through the gardens. We appreciated the kind words, questions and compliments. The garden tour allowed Family Hospice to share our message of Compassionate Care with many people who realized the importance of planning ahead when it comes to their health care wishes.

Just recently our office received a call from a family whose mother resides in a Washington County long term care facility. The family is inquiring about hospice services. When asked why they called Family Hospice, the patient’s daughter explained: “We attended the garden tour in July and were so impressed with The Center for Compassionate Care. We know Family Hospice is the right choice for mom.”

All of this speaks to the experience provided at our inpatient centers in Mt. Lebanon and Lawrenceville.  Our Centers for Compassionate Care provide a home-like environment, private bedrooms, and spaces for families to gather. We invite you to experience our inpatient centers via the virtual tours on our website, at

“Is it all right if I sit here awhile and just enjoy the scenery?” one Garden Tour visitor asked. “This courtyard is the perfect oasis.”

“Absolutely,” a Family Hospice staff member answered. “We’re glad to know you like it.”

And, we’re glad to know our gardens have purpose for so many patients and their loved ones.

Rafael J. Sciullo, MA, LCSW, MS, is President and CEO of Family Hospice and Palliative Care and Past Chairperson of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. 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


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