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A Melody of Courage, Gratitude, and Service to Others: Joseph Lorenz's Hospice Journey

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GILLETTE, Wyo. - Jan. 2, 2024 - In the midst of preparing for the holidays and new year, a narrative was unfolding — one of courage and gratitude in navigating the end of a life. Joseph Lorenz, a distinguished 71-year-old former Marine, singer, and musician, graciously shared his journey with lung cancer, offering insight into the support provided by Campbell County Health's Home Health and Hospice team.

Last October, Joseph's path intersected with the hospice team when patient navigator Ronda Boller, who learned of his cancer journey, initiated a conversation about the invaluable services that hospice provides. That same day, Joseph received a call from the hospice team, marking the beginning of a partnership built upon trust, support, and compassion. Understanding the prevailing misconceptions surrounding hospice, Joseph candidly acknowledged the initial resistance that often accompanies its mention. However, he highlighted the pivotal role played by the hospice team in dispelling these misconceptions. "They explained things in the way I needed them explained."

Joseph, a man of musical talents and passion, utilized his interests to forge a unique connection with his hospice team. Organizing a karaoke gig and hosting a small get-together enabled him to get to know the team that would care for him through his final moments. Despite all the time spent with the hospice team, he finds himself continuously amazed by them – a recurring theme in his and his wife Denise’s journey.

"I'm always amazed at the care and concern that I feel from them [the hospice team]," Joseph shared, encapsulating the depth of his admiration.

Reflecting on a philanthropic endeavor 25 years prior—a musical event he organized to raise funds for hospice services—Joseph found himself in a twist of fate, now a recipient of the very care he once sought to support. This realization underscored the unpredictability of life and our shared collective experiences. Joseph shared he never expected to be on this side of hospice. A paradigm shift for a man accustomed to independence, Joseph's transition to hospice care was met with understanding and empathy from the dedicated team.

"24/7, they are here for us; we can call them whenever we need them," shared Denise.

Joseph shared the challenge of accepting the shift to hospice, recognizing the nuance between hospice and curative treatment, sharing, "It took time to understand it all, to really understand that my life is coming to an end."

A testament to the hospice team's dedication emerged in a simple yet impactful gesture—fulfilling Joseph's nostalgic craving for spiced apple rings. The team's attention to individual preferences and needs reflects their commitment to enhancing the quality of life for those under their care. Joseph's recollection of the autumn treat was more than a story to the hospice team; it was rather a wish they would find a way to fulfill.

The Lorenz family, originally from Minneapolis, acknowledged the strong support received from Gillette and CCH's hospice team. Denise described Gillette as a place where people rally together in extraordinary ways with a sense of community surrounding them during this challenging period.

As Joseph and Denise celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary on December 18th, Joseph's focus shifted to the impact his life's conclusion might have on his wife. He shared that he would do anything he could to support her through this period. His determination to help her through this emotional journey is a testament to the strength of their enduring bond.

Joseph reframes his perspective on being under hospice care, sharing that the situation has turned out all right given the circumstances. Expressing love for Gillette and gratefulness for the support received, he recognizes the hospice team's role in navigating this challenging process.

Joseph contemplated the inevitability of death, viewing it as a natural part of life—one of the two miracles on Earth alongside birth. His admiration for life's journey, with all its ups and downs, reminds us to cherish the little moments throughout our lives. He shared, "Being born and dying are miracles, even if we don't look at it that way. You learn to appreciate everything in between; you learn to love all the moments along the way."

While Joseph openly admits he didn't anticipate facing this chapter of life so soon, he cherishes a life he knows was well-lived. "I've had a good life, and I've gotten to do some pretty cool things," he reflected with a sense of fulfillment.

Joseph extended his appreciation to the CCH hospice team and the Gillette community, emphasizing the need for broader recognition of the positive aspects of the community. Joseph shared, "If people only knew what we had here [in Gillette], sometimes all you hear is the bad stuff, but we've got it pretty good here - the community, our hospice team – if only people could realize that more."

In sharing Joseph Lorenz's story, we honor not only his journey but highlight the around-the-clock work of Campbell County Health's Home Health and Hospice team to deliver excellence to those in our community who truly need it most. Joseph's journey brings to light the often-overlooked aspects of life's final chapter. CCH's hospice services are here to honor and bring dignity to life's last moments, emphasizing a lifetime of dedication and compassion.

In Joseph's journey, we find a profound melody – of someone dedicated to serving and loving others, serving his country, displaying courage in uncertainty, and gratitude to his community and the team dedicated to caring for him and his family.