Hospice Care Patient Gets One Last Visit to the Beach
By Elizabeth Skenes Millen and Darlene Schuetz
Photos provided by The Eagers Family and Hospice Care of the Lowcountry
There wasn’t a dry eye around Joseph Eagers, Jr. (Joe)
at what was his last visit to the beach.
“When death is coming, there are few material things that matter,” said Maggie Clark, Hospice Care of the Lowcountry Volunteer Coordinator. “What is important are experiences, family, love and comfort.”
Joe Eagers, a long time Hilton Head Island resident, and his daughter, Jan Eagers, spent the last year of his life reminiscing, reflecting, and sharing their bond for each other. Joe, who lead a very active life up until last year, had been bed bound for nearly 16 months, in hospice care, with death imminent. At Jan’s direction, Hospice Care of the Lowcountry carried out her final wish for her father—a trip to the beach in Joe’s longtime neighborhood, Sea Pines.
“You can’t give someone who’s dying a gift or a physical thing. I hope this was a gift for him. I was elated and praying he was too. He had been trying to die for two years. He was done. He had told us he wanted to die at home, and said he had done everything he wanted to do and been everywhere he wanted to go. He said, ‘There are no blank spaces. I’ve had a full life,’” Jan said.
Melanie Carver, RN, and Maggie Clark arranged for All About Medical to escort Joe, Jan, and his care team to the beach. This was made possible through the We Honor Veterans program provided by Hospice Care of the Lowcountry.
They picked him up at Broad Creek Care Center, where he received excellent care since the failing of his health, and drove to Tower Beach in Sea Pines. The stretcher stopped just shy of the ocean water; medical transport staff held an umbrella over Mr. Eagers as Jan knelt beside him.
“I wanted him to smell something different than a closed bedroom. I wanted him to hear something different. He had not opened his eyes or spoken in a while, but I think the body knows. I wanted some direct sunlight on him so he could feel it. I don’t know what he could feel, but I felt I had done my job,” Jan explained.
“In that moment when Mr. Eager’s daughter knelt down beside him, and I watched them both inhale the salty air at the same time as the ocean breeze softly swayed through their hair, I knew our team had accomplished something far greater than what we ever expected,” said Nurse Melanie. “Death is often associated with negative scenarios, however, at Hospice Care of the Lowcountry, we strive to help our patients live to the fullest during their last days. Standing on that beach, the feeling was beautiful, as if the entire beach was crowded with love.”
The experience didn’t end there. Jan asked the ambulance drivers if they would swing by his home, which was very close by. When they arrived, they rolled up the large ambulance doors so he could see the front door of his house, if for some miracle he would open his eyes. Jan told her father, “Dad. I brought you home!”
Joe died 16 hours later with Jan by his side, peacefully and painlessly.
“I feel complete peace and no regrets regarding the last days of my father’s life. It was very important to me to share this last adventure with my Dad,” Jan said.
About Joseph: Joseph Alban Eagers Jr. was a graduate of West Point and an infantry combat veteran of WWII and Korea, also serving as a Senior Staff Engineer in Vietnam in 1966-’67. He was predeceased by his wife JoAnne Eagers, and survived by his three children: Jan Eagers (Michael), Joseph A. “Jack” Eagers III and Claire Eagers Leon (Gordon). Joe was an avid world traveler, visiting 80 countries and leaving behind 100 travel journals and thousands of photos, spanning his lifetime of journeys. If you would like to read more about the trails Mr. Eagers blazed and the legacy he leaves behind, go to www.theislandfuneralhome.com/tribute/details/211249/Joseph-Eagers-Jr/obituary.
Jan, her brother, Jack, and her sister, Claire, would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the wonderful care their father received at Broad Creek Care Center at TidePoint, Hospice Care of the Lowcountry, and the special experience provided by All About Medical and the We Honor Veterans program.