Grief Notes ~ Memorials to Our Loved Ones

Gaston Hospice and Grief Counseling Services


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 In Memory of Donna Stiles, Gaston Hospice Volunteer    


In our volunteer work, we sadly lose our patients to various illnesses and infirmities.  Rarely do we find ourselves saying good bye to one of “our own”. Donna Stiles passed away on January 5, 2016.  She and her mother, Virginia, have been volunteers for Gaston Hospice for quite some time.  In that time, Donna worked endless hours with a bright smile on her face. 

“She was a pleasure to work with.  Always smiling and upbeat”, said Tonya Wallace, Admissions Coordinator.

“Things that many people would find confusing and difficult, Donna did with ease and a common-sense attitude.”, said Terri Ray, Director of Counseling Services. 

Kerry Mraz, Medical Records Specialist, shared ,“It was such a pleasure to have Donna as a volunteer in Medical Records.  She was so sweet and always had a beautiful smile and kind words for everyone here.  She will be greatly missed.” 

Michelle Petty, former Volunteer Coordinator for Gaston Hospice, had this to share, “Donna was a real 'go getter' and loved helping everyone. Because she loved helping she worked in about every department. She once made the comment to me, 'This is getting to be like a real job!' I had to stop in my tracks and realize this is serious work our volunteers do, and we cannot make it without them! They truly are our 'professional volunteers' and so awesome at what they do! You will be missed, sweet Donna!”





To read Hero's 3-part Memorial, scroll down to In Memory of Joey Taylor




                  In Loving Memory

                               Ebbie Jo Ruff

                      August 13, 1945 - July 15, 2014



                                 I’m Free

                   Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free

                   I'm following the path God laid for me.

                   I took His hand when I heard him call;

                   I turned my back and left it all.

                   I could not stay another day,

                  To laugh, to love, to work or play.

                  Tasks left undone must stay that way;

                   I found that place at the close of day.

                   If my parting has left a void,

                  Then fill it with remembered joys.

                  A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss;

                  Oh yes, these things, I too will miss.

                  Be not burdened with times of sorrow

                  Look for the sunshine of tomorrow.

                  My life's been full, I savored much;

                  Good friends, good times, a loved ones touch.

                  Perhaps my time seems all to brief;

                  Don't lengthen it now with undue grief.

                  Lift up your hearts and share with me

                  God wanted me now-He set me free

                     AuthorShannon Lee Moseley



 In Memory of Ina Belle Garrison Ruff

                         May 18, 1916 - May 18, 2014


        Ina loved this poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye.

             To my loved ones. I love you all!  Ina 

                    Do not stand at my grave and weep
                    I am not there. I do not sleep.
                    I am a thousand winds that blow.
                    I am the diamond glints on snow.
                    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
                    I am the gentle autumn rain.
                    When you awaken in the morning's hush
                    I am the swift uplifting rush
                    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
                    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
                    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
                    I am not there. I did not die.



Remembering Shirley Coley - Gaston Hospice Volunteer

The staff of Gaston Hospice are saddened by the recent death of our beloved volunteer, Shirley Coley. For over 15 years, Shirley assisted with many of our bereavement programs. She was a volunteer for our children's grief camp, Camp Phoenix, and regularly volunteered as a reader for the Light a Path Luminary Walk. On a dreary fall day, shortly after her husband, Ray, died, Shirley found comfort in transforming Ray's many golf shirts into cozy quilts for her children's Christmas gifts and shared her ingenuity with our bereavement staff. Thus was born the inspiration for our Patchwork Memories annual quilting class, and Shirley served many years as its faithful volunteer assisting others in the design of their own quilted heirlooms. We will miss the support that Shirley gave to many bereaved folks through her volunteer efforts. But most of all, we will miss her spirit of enthusiasm and optimism. We send our condolences to her family, children Sharon and David, and her beloved grandchildren, Dylan and "Becca", who she talked about so lovingly. Go in peace, Shirley! We will miss you!   



              In Memory of Joey Taylor

                   11/18/71 - 5/25/13

               By Billie Taylor, mother


Part I:  He Left Me With Heartache and This Dog!! (summer 2013)

They say it’s okay to be angry when you are grieving.....well I am angry today!!

My youngest son, Joey, lost his long battle with cancer on May 25, 2013. He did not leave fame or fortune, but he left me with a broken heart and a very large pitbull dog named, Hero. Hero is an indoor pet. (Oh, did I mention I’ve never had an indoor pet, so you can imagine the adjustment!)

Hero was very devoted to, and spoiled by, his "Daddy" who had owned him for 13 years. He is grieving right along side of me now. Hero is so lost without Joey that he walks from room to room and is always under foot and crying. He wants to go home; he just doesn’t realize he IS home.

Joey loved this dog so much. I know he would want me to take good care of Hero, just as he did, so we’ll just have to muddle through this together. When he looks up at me with those big, brown, sad breaks my heart even more, and I have to love him.

I took "Hero" to the cemetery to see Joey’s marker and took this picture. Even through all the grief and anger, I have to smile.......I can just see that beautiful smile on Joey’s face saying, "I finally got one on you, Mom. You’re stuck with him!"

Well, I don’t like this one bit; the hurt, the grief, the missing him, having an indoor pet and all that goes with it. I guess I don’t have to like it, and I guess it’s ok to be there.....I am angry!!

 And Hero is probably angry also!



        Hero at Joey's grave, summer 2013.


Part II: Still Grieving (winter 2014)

It's been nine long, hard months since my precious son, Joey, went to heaven. I guess the old saying is true: "Time flies when you're having fun" and even when you're not having fun it flies by...

These past nine months have not been fun. It has been difficult facing the fact that I will never see his smiling face or hear his funny laugh again this side of heaven. Life will never be the same again. There's a part of me that's missing; a very big part. I still cry, I still have bad days, and I still get angry. It's only the happy memories, and knowing where Joey is, that help me survive this pain.

As for Hero, Joey's 13-year-old, very large pit bull, he's still grieving, too. He whines, cries, mopes around, and gets on my last nerve. I think he's finally figured out that he's not going home to Daddy anymore, that he has a new home now. The only good thing is that Hero sort of has a "new" Daddy in Joey's older brother, Bryant. They have become best buddies. I doubt that Hero would have survived Joey's death without Bryant.

This grief stuff is just so hard, not only for humans, but for pets, too. Don't ever let anyone tell you that pets don't grieve, because I'm here to tell you they do. Healing comes slowly, but it we give ourselves permission to go on living, laughing and enjoying the good times.

 Aloha, Joey, until we meet again.




             Hero in the snow, winter 2014.


Part III: Finally He Can Stop Looking for His Master (summer 2014)


This is the final grief note on “Hero” the pit bull, the dog left behind by my son, Joey, who passed away from cancer on May 25, 2013. Hero went to “doggie heaven” on July 31, 2014, peacefully and with Joey’s brother, Bryant, by his side.

Hero was almost 15 years old and the most devoted dog I have ever seen, and smart too!! The love he and Joey had for each other was the kind of love we all need. They were always together. We really don’t know whether God allows pets in heaven or not but, to keep my sanity, I choose to think that Hero and Joey are together again and will never be apart. This brings a smile to my face and peace in my heart.

This past fourteen months have been hard, the grieving goes on - sometimes unbearable, but every time I would look at Hero, it brought back happy memories of Joey.  When Debra, my Gaston Hospice counselor would come to see me, Hero would always come into the room and stand in front of Debra and look at her. It was like he knew we were talking about his “Daddy”.  Just like Joey, he will never be forgotten, and I am forever grateful for the joy he brought into Joey’s life.  There will never be another “Hero” for me.

REST IN PEACE with your master, Hero.


Billie S. Taylor (mother of Joseph Anthony Taylor 11-18-1971 - May 25, 2013)


                     Just one more...




                                   Grayson and Donnan


     In Memory of Grayson Alexander Kiser

                      3/25/93 ~ 10/1/12

            by Laurin McCarley, mother



"How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways."  From the time your wide-eyed face appeared from my body in the darkened birthing room to the day that you, age 19, were standing beside me, seemingly in your own world, silent, and then minutes later, alone, in your bedroom, motionless, I have whole-heartedly centered my world around you.  My love for you, dear Grayson, has no bounds, and I feel you know that.

You are now in a better place without inner turmoil; your "cup" no longer running over.  I have days when I cry while sorting laundry, yearning to hear your silly "plea" for me to bring MORE milk while you devour OREOS!  I miss you and Donnan sleeping together, him emerging sluggishly from under your sheet for his morning "watering."  I get pangs in my chest when it HITS me that you will never see darling little Cara, who, no doubt, would be even more "rotten" than her big puppy brother...all due to your loving care of yet another pit bull family pet.

 I shudder when I lay down and I can no longer imagine you coming into my room, wanting to lie beside me...talking to vent or simply needing a back-tickle.  You were not too "big" for that special one-on-one closeness, were you?  Days and nights of you drawing in a sketchbook will never fade from my memory.

 Unanswered questions, never-ending love, the world keeps turning (mine stops on many a day) ~ when will my NEED to touch you cease?

 I love you, "Angel Heart."  The days when I sense you are simply right around a corner in the house- coming in after being out with friends- creep up on me.  Boys with hoodies and tattoos bring heartbeat skips and then eyes and mind playing tricks on me AGAIN...the males are not you in the flesh.

 Your pain is gone, and I am trying my best to forge on, focusing on being an available mother for your sister, Carley, and an attentive wife for your stepfather, Steve.  You will always be my "baby" boy, dear Grayson, and will FOREVER hold a piece of my heart.




                    Danielle Watson

                    4/27/86 - 1/14/12

                 A Brother’s Memory


I keep expecting her to be using all the hot water up or filling up our trash cans with tissues of eye make up, she loved to take off just as much as she put on.  She always had her door half-closed with music on so loud it would annoy the house, and so much power going to both of our rooms that the fuse would go out every 3 minutes.  She always walked around with just boy shorts on which was awkward for everyone, and she acted like it was normal until the doorbell rang and she yelled not to get it until she was in a closed-off space.  Always coming into my room asking me what looks good on her when she knows I didn't have any sense of what looked good and then eventually asked me if it was too trashy, to which I responded,  “What classifies as too trashy?”  Annoying habits of washing her towels every two days, and the days that her towels were not in the wash, her clothes were, so it was impossible to get my wash done in the little time that I had to do it.  She always ate my leftover take-out food.  I had to hide it or write on the box, "Doug knows how many slices are in here so don't take any," which never stopped her from taking it out and eating it right in front of me.  She always loved giving servers a hard time ordering her meal, as if it was the most important moment of her day.  It had to be absolutely perfect or she would send it back because it’s just not quite medium-plus with just the right amount of char on it. 

Now, my hot water is never out, there is never any annoying loud music, never any yelling about what she should do with her life, the fuse never goes out in my room, I never get asked what looks good on her, I don't get asked for fashion advice I have no idea about, there is always time to wash my clothes, and my leftovers are in the refrigerator long enough to be bad by now.   I no longer feel sad because we fight but because we do not fight. I hate everything because I stopped hating the usual things.  The fact that things are completely different and just so extremely abnormal is what bugs me now rather than being bugged by her because she was abnormal.

She and I are now the same.  I will carry on living exactly how she would have wanted me too.  My sister, Danielle Watson, I will be in remembrance of her as will thousands of other things I do on a day to day basis. You can have the whole world, Danielle, so let us run so much power we blow this whole place up.  Let us set fire to people's fear and doubt and give people hope and dreams.  Let’s light it up and live like rock stars, never quit fighting, never give up; as long as I live, we will fly high.  I love you so much, and I will make it so that nobody will ever forget you.  You are going to be famous.  Let your passion and your drive be instilled in me and your fiancé, Keith, so that the world will scream your name and everything you are, with all its might.  You did not go down without a fight.  No one would have ever fought as you did.  I am now braver and more motivated than ever to make you noticed and make you the biggest name in the world.

Thank you for everything you have done for everyone you have done it for, even if you did not know.

I love you, big sis, and that will never change.




         Light a Path - Walk to Remember

             by Candace Hulsey, mother

On Friday, March 1st, 2013, Gaston Hospice and the Southern Piedmont Chapter of The Compassionate Friends held our annual walk to remember at the Schiele Museum nature trail. I have been a part of the walk every year that it has taken place, and I am always amazed at how it speaks to me in a new and entirely different way each year.

The first year’s walk was very lonely for me; it was very cold and the weather precisely matched the season of my grief.  Each year as I have grown in my grief, I have found comfort and inspiration in the walk.  I am always appreciative of a time set aside just for the remembering and honoring of our loved ones.

The walk has become kinder through the years as I have participated as a reader and a guide.  The trail is now like a familiar friend.  I am comfortable there, and I know that when I walk, Steven is walking with me. When I serve as a guide, he serves with me; if I participate as a reader, he reads with me.

Each year the meaning may change, but it is always a time to remember.  To remember Steven and to remember the years past and how far I have traveled in my grief.  The grief does not go away, but it does soften as I learn to live around the grief and find ways to remember and honor Steven and to once again find joy and meaning in my life.

My life is different than I ever imagined it would be, but it still has meaning and joy.  Steven resides in my heart, in my mind and will always be a very present and real part of my life. Steven and I have moved on from the horrific pain of the first years, but we have moved on together.




In Memory of Roger Ralph Ewinger

May 13, 1918 - April 21, 1994

by Nancy E. Foltz

A cold, clear morning dawned in Burlington, Iowa on the day of my father’s funeral.  Mist was rising from the Mississippi River as the sun rose.   In his youth, my father’s activitieson a morning such as this would have involved the River in some way:  fishing, camping, or simply sitting on its banks to watch its unhurried movement to the Gulf of Mexico.  Instead, today, what remained of this once vigorous man would be scattered in the river’s currents.  That task fell to me and my brothers.

I suppose that by most standards, the ceremony held by my family to honor my father would not be considered a funeral.  There were four of us - my mother, my two brothers, and me.  We gathered first at Mosquito Park, a small corner park on a quiet Burlington street on a high bluff overlooking the river.  It was the appropriate place to say a few words of remembrance for the man who had grown up “with river water in his veins”.

I stood in the cold, holding the box containing my father’s ashes, watching the sun climb and touch the bright autumn leaves of the trees.   No one else was about. 

My brother read a poem, written by his wife, romanticizing the winding road to the farm where my father had earned a living for over fifty years.  He had chosen this work because he liked to watch things grow.  He told me once that this love of growing things was also the reason he had children. 

It was time to descend the bluff to the riverbank.  My mother stayed on the park bench.  My brothers and I walked downhill through the old streets of Burlington, past the huge houses built in the days when river boats and barges moved tons of products from the Midwest to the Port of New Orleans.  

We reached the dock.  My brothers and I took handfuls of grey ashes and threw them out into the moving water.  Some sank immediately, some floated until out of sight, carried by the river past the banks and the islands and the sandbars where my father had spent endless hours.

The morning sun had now fully cleared the horizon.  The mists had evaporated.  I turned to walk back up the hill to my mother.  At the farm, my children were waiting.






Gaston Hospice Services

Gaston Hospice is a local, non-profit healthcare organization that cares for people who have a life-limiting illness that is no longer responding to curative treatment. Hospice care enables these patients to live at home as fully as possible. Hospice puts both patient and family at the center of care planning.

Our Services Include:

- Pain and symptom management
- Assistance with financial and legal issues from a medical social worker
- Emotional and spiritual support from licensed counselors and chaplains
- Certified nursing assistants to help with personal care
- Volunteers to help provide companionship, run errands, etc.
- Respite care when family caregivers need a break
- Medications, equipment and supplies
- Grief support for loved ones

We Provide Our Services:

- In the home
- In the Robin Johnson House
- In the long term care facility
- In the hospital

Gaston Hospice serves any resident of Gaston County and the surrounding area who has been diagnosed with a life expectancy of six months or less. Services are provided regardless of diagnosis or ability to pay.

More Information

To find out more about about Gaston Hospice, stop by our office (directions), contact us online, or by phone at: 704.861-8405

Mailing address:
Gaston Hospice
PO Box 3984
Gastonia NC 28054
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