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Pappus House founders see death differently since starting York County hospice home

Pappus House founders see death differently since starting York County hospice home

  • Pappus is the silky white filament in a milkweed pod that carries the seed to its next destination. Like its namesake, Pappus House provides a home for those traveling through end of life.
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When Beth Gill-MacDonald’s father neared the end of his life in 2007, he found a home at an acute in-patient hospice center in Dayton, Ohio.

Throughout his short time there, the hospice staff gently walked Beth and her family through the process of death.

The facility and the staff had a profound impact on Beth, and upon returning home, Beth began sharing the experience with others in the community.

Creating a place of peace

Over the next decade, Beth found several others who experienced end-of-life with a loved one. Some were positive journeys filled with pleasant memories, but others were cold and institutional.

Together, they spoke about what services the York community needed. Ultimately, this founding group formed a nonprofit to open a home available to people under the care of any hospice organization in Pennsylvania.

Their mission was to create a home to provide round-the-clock personal care for individuals in their final weeks of life, surrounding them with loved ones, home-cooked meals, views of nature, and peaceful sounds. Beth and the founding board and volunteers consciously opened a humble three-bedroom home to make sure the community embraced the concept as strongly as they did.

In December 2017, Pappus House opened its doors in York.

Four years and 150 residents later, the organization has grown, but the mission remains the same. Members of the Pappus team, led by executive director Amy Jansky, have witnessed story after story of finding peace in the death experience:

• A professional piano player playing the Pappus House piano through her last days.

• An Irish whisky aficionado enjoying a whiff for St. Patrick’s Day.

• A pet owner spending her final hours with her furry companion.

• A father saying goodbye while his young daughter lay next to him, singing him hymns.

Seeing the stars, feeling the sun

These stories are only the beginning for Pappus House. They currently turn away over half of the families who reach out to them because of lack of space in the three-bedroom house. In June, they will be breaking ground on an eight-bedroom home in Thomasville.

Set on nine serene acres, the new home will have a patio for each bedroom. Even bed-bound residents can be wheeled out to see the stars, feel the sun, or taste the snow on their tongue.

Wheel-in shower beds will allow residents to experience water running over their skin while most in hospice care are afforded only sponge baths.

A playroom will offer a break for kids and teens.

Individuals rooms will be large enough to accommodate families wishing to stay overnight with their loved one.

“I feel like, of all the things I’ve had an opportunity to do in my life, this is the thing I’m most proud of,” Beth says. “I look at death completely differently now, really seeing this as a special time for that person who’s dying and their family. We get to be a part of that and help make that as meaningful as possible.”