‘Celebrating a life lived’

STAFF PHOTO BY LARRY WOOD Staff members from the Aiken office of Agape Hospice and Agape Senior locations around the state filled the front lawn of USC Aiken with hundreds of umbrellas Wednesday in recognition of National Hospice Month. Pictured, from left, are Melba Allard, Lisa Livingston, Justin Higgins, Juanle Erbskorn and Stacey San Pedro, all of the Aiken office; and Joe Nester.

Hundreds of red, yellow and blue umbrellas decorated to look like summer flowers popped up on USC Aiken’s front lawn on Wednesday in recognition of National Hospice Month.

Agape Hospice of Aiken and its parent company, Agape Senior in Columbia, sponsored the event to raise awareness for hospice care and to remember people who have been in hospice through its signature event, Life Blooms Eternally.

“The umbrellas are in memory of the folks who passed away this year in our hospice care,” said Lisa Livingston, the vice president of sales and advertising with Agape Senior.

Family members purchased umbrellas to remember their loved ones.

“Each umbrella is a symbol of a person who was lost,” said Stacey San Pedro of Agape Hospice of Aiken. “We want to keep the focus on people who have passed away with hospice. It’s a dreary day, but we hope to give some people some cheer.”

The event is a “celebration of life,” said Joe Nester, director of Internet marketing for Agape Senior in Columbia.

“We’re not focusing on the end of life,” Nester said. “We’re celebrating a life lived.”

San Pedro said Life Blooms Eternally offers awareness and education that might clear up some of the misconceptions about hospice, especially that hospice is associated only with the end of life.

“A lot of people actually get better on hospice because they get such good treatment,” San Pedro said. “They get great care, and it increases their quality of life so much that they don’t need hospice any more.”

For people near the end of life, hospice can make their lives and their families’ lives more comfortable, San Pedro said.

“They’re able to enjoy being with their loved ones, and their loved ones can enjoy them,” she said. “It’s a peaceful way to go. It’s more about the life of the person rather than the death of the person.”

San Pedro said Life Blooms Eternally allows everyone who has lost someone to celebrate that person’s life as part of a community.

“It’s something that can bring people together and help them feel like they have a large community to memorialize their loved ones,” San Pedro said. “They’re not alone.”

Life Blooms Eternally started six years ago at Winthrop University in Rock Hill and has grown every year, Nester said. This year is the first the event has come to USCA.

“This year, we’re doing 15 events across the state, including the Statehouse in Columbia and the Custom House in Charleston,” Nester said.

For images and video of the event at other locations around the state, visit the Life Blooms Eternally Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/agapesenior/life-blooms-eternally/.

A native of Aiken, Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.