The year was 2010. The day was June 9. The event impacted my life like none other. We bade a sad farewell to my father, John A. Lusk. He was surrounded by his family and two hospice docs he had trained. The farewell was very sad and very hard for me, but the man and his life continue to be beyond inspirational.
John A. Lusk, III, was one of the founding board members of Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG). In 1958, he set up his internal medicine practice in Greensboro and became that city’s first oncologist. He became renowned for his warmth, skill, and knowledge both to his patients and in the medical community. As the first “hospice doc” at HPCG, he made the first patient referral to HPCG. He became the HPCG Medical Director and later Medical Director Emeritus. He never left that office, glad for the opportunity to serve and to pass on his knowledge and wisdom. He was working in that capacity on the day that he was admitted to the hospital for the last time, two weeks before his death.
Losing my father, despite his very full and meaningful 87 years of life, sent me into a grief that stopped me in my tracks, scared me, motivated me, shook me up, humbled me, and gave me an intense energy. Some would call this energy the agitation that comes with a deep grief. I was afraid that this energy would be temporary and that I would lose momentum when I came out of the other side. I felt so many things all at once, none of which left time or energy for everyday living.
Because I lived in Raleigh, I finally called Hospice of Wake County (now Transitions LifeCare) and met with a bereavement counselor. She and I talked about how it was not fair, I was not ready, there were still so many questions and things to tell him and do with him….so many more experiences to be had. I was angry. I was also intensely aware of how much he did for the community of Greensboro and for North Carolina and, I found out, the Southeast. Very humbling, indeed! A person like that doesn’t just die, his goodness doesn’t just end, does it?! What could I do to honor him??? How could I continue his legacy?
Wisely, the counselor decided I needed to talk with Michael Blanchard in the development office. I absolutely HAD to find some meaningful and productive outlet! Luckily, she knew that Michael was the perfect person for me to talk with. When I met Michael, he had such a ready smile and warm handshake. He brought his chair around the desk and we sat face to face. He was intent on learning about my dad. Michael honored him and my grief with his rapt attention. I felt comforted and respected. And then he said, “You know, we have this walk coming up. It is the inaugural walk and we would love for you to participate. You could set up a team in honor of your dad.” Well….the rest is history. The Lusk Legacy Team was formed right then in my mind and shortly thereafter on the Step Lively website. That was just the first step on the way to honoring my dad’s legacy.
I went on to become a family support volunteer, a vigil volunteer, and an ambassador. I am also very grateful for speaking opportunities that HPCG has given me, to talk about my dad, what his life means to me, and how he continues to inspire me. I have seen many sides of the hospice and palliative care movement, from its inception in Greensboro, to being a recipient of the wonderful care, to promoting, educating, and giving care. I am always grateful to talk with anyone who will listen, like those who have joined the Lusk Legacy Team to walk in the Step Lively walk. Creating opportunities to further education and caregiving opportunities is heartwarming for me. I am glad to find that I have not lost that energy; it endures. The Step Lively walk is one of the ways that I carry my dad’s legacy forward.
by Elizabeth L., volunteer and advocate