Giving the Best Life

Laurette Kammerman had one goal while her mother was in Carroll Hospice’s care: to give her the best life in the time she had left.

“And that’s what I did,” she says.

It was a dark time for Laurette and her family. They’d lost her father, Harold Schuler, in June 2018. Her mother, Laverne Schuler, had been diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2017, and had put her own health needs aside to care for her husband. The couple had been weeks away from celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary when Harold died.

Laurette had been traveling to her parents’ home in Ocean Pines every other week to care for them while working full time. “If we needed something, [my parents] would help us,” says Laurette. “So when they got sick, I told my husband: ‘This is my turn.’”

After Harold’s death, Laverne moved into Laurette’s home in Marriottsville, and they enlisted the help of Carroll Hospice. Mother and daughter especially connected with Dorothea James, Carroll Hospice’s lead chaplain. “My mother couldn’t wait until she came,” Laurette says. “Her eyes would light up, and Dorothea would sing to her.”

Laurette Kammerman looks through a photo album, reflecting on memories of her parents, Harold and Laverne Schuler.

Dorothea was even able to track down a favorite song of Laverne and Harold’s from church, Laurette remembers, to sing. “To the very day my mother died, Dorothea was there for me and my family,” says Laurette.

Laverne had been in good health before the cancer diagnosis. She walked three miles a day, worked out at Curves until she was 80 and mowed the lawn at age 85. While in hospice care, she wasn’t in pain, Laurette remembers, but had started to lose weight, despite her large appetite.

That changed suddenly in early 2019, when Laverne couldn’t talk or eat anymore. She was transported to Dove House. Before she left, Laverne told her daughter she loved her. She never spoke again. She died five days after entering Dove House.

“Her whole life, it was about everyone else but her,” Laurette remembers. “She was very strong willed, and she always wanted to do things for other people.”

Laverne enjoyed knitting and crocheting and loved to cook, especially Polish food. “Until the very end, she always had to be doing something,” says Laurette. “I would sit her down in the kitchen and she would be peeling potatoes or making vegetables. She had to feel needed.”

Laurette made sure her mother was pampered in her final months, especially since she essentially had been homebound while caring for Harold.

Previously, the only time Laverne had her nails professionally painted was for Laurette’s wedding. That changed when she came to live with Laurette.

“Her friend would come every Friday and take her out to lunch, and they would go shopping and get their nails done every three weeks,” Laurette says. She also made sure her mother continued to get her hair done every week.

Laverne loved being a grandmother, or “Baba,” to Laurette’s two children. She would watch them during summer vacations at her home in Ocean Pines, where many memories were made. Now adults, Laverne’s grandchildren made sure to come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas to visit and spend time with her.

Laverne also loved holiday decorations, and Laurette was happy to oblige. “I thought ‘if she wants to have decorations up, I’m putting decorations up,’” Laurette remembers. Whether it was for Halloween, fall or Christmas, Laurette says she “decorated to the max” for her mother.

“My mom was my best friend,” she says. “I just hope that I gave her the best life that she could’ve had without my dad.”

Laurette is thankful for the help Carroll Hospice provided to her at such a difficult time.

“Carroll Hospice was my lifeline,” she says. “I will never forget what they did for me and my family.”

From the spring 2020 issue of DASH, Carroll Hospice’s community newsletter

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