By: Malarie Allen | Public Relations Specialist
From Albertville, Ala. to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., our community recently loved on one Shepherd’s Cove Hospice patient by providing a special vacation her family will never forget.
Doreen Underwood has spent her life caring for her family, including five children ranging from 5 years to 23 years old. The youngest children, ages 5 and 7, have very few memories of their mother that don’t include sickness with COPD and portable oxygen.
Doreen’s family lives in a small house in Blountsville, Ala. The 47-year-old loves life, family and new experiences, but because of her illness, she now spends most of her time in a hospital bed inside a small bedroom. Her biggest window to the world is the large, flat-screen television her husband set up for her in the bedroom.
Shepherd’s Cove began caring for Doreen in April, after doctors told her she likely only had a couple more weeks to live. More than a month later, with her pain under control, the entire family embarked on a memory-making journey to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. It was their first-ever family vacation. In fact, it was Doreen’s first family vacation in her lifetime. Doreen’s family was never able to afford vacations when she was a child.
“I wanted my children to have a vacation with their momma before I pass away,” she said. “I wanted them to have memories of me being alive.”
The family, including her husband James, all five children, future son-in-law, and two young grandchildren, stayed in a six-bedroom cabin donated by a member of the community, who wished to remain anonymous. With a game room, jacuzzi, and other amenities, Doreen said “the cabin itself was a vacation.”
“We felt like we were in a mansion,” she said.
Shepherd’s Cove worked with the Dollywood theme park to provide tickets for the whole family for a day. This was a special treat for Doreen. One of her fondest childhood memories is going with her father and sisters to see Dolly Parton’s movie “Nine to Five” at the drive-in theater. It was the first time Doreen had ever seen a movie on a big theater screen. She later named one of her dolls after Parton’s character, Doralee, and learned to love Parton’s unique country music sound.
“I wish I could’ve met her,” Doreen said. “I just love Dolly Parton.”
Doreen’s family also enjoyed a nice steak dinner, celebrated their son’s 20th birthday, rode the Smokey Mountain Alpine Coaster, and took lots of pictures throughout the vacation. Even though Doreen couldn’t ride all the rides with her children, the joy on their faces was enough of a thrill for her.
“They had a ball, and I had an awesome time just watching them have an awesome time,” she said.
Additionally, thanks to a family friend, Doreen and her husband went out on a special date for just the two of them. Knowing Doreen’s fascination with the story of the Titanic, their friend purchased tickets for the couple to visit the Titanic Museum. Her oldest children agreed to babysit their younger siblings.
“I loved everything we saw on the trip,” Doreen said. “I think I actually loved it more than my kids did. It was a long drive, but it was worth every single moment of it.”
The trip was organized by Shepherd’s Cove social worker Ashley Priest in conjunction with the Shepherd’s Cove Foundation. With tremendous community support, the Foundation helps provide necessary resources to make last wishes like this come true for hospice patients.
Doreen was especially touched knowing several different community members and organizations came together to make the trip possible.
“This vacation is something we could’ve never done on our own,” she said. “It’s something my children can hold on to forever. I’m just so thankful for everything.”
To show her gratitude, Doreen said she is teaching her children to give back in different ways. She hopes they will work to bring the same kind of joy to others in need.
“We just feel totally, 100-percent blessed,” she said.
and just as giving comes full circle, so do the blessings. One particular benefactor who played a major role in making the trip possible found joy in being able to help this family make precious memories.
“During a difficult day full of business decisions and attorneys, I received a call about the contagious joy the family felt during the trip,” the donor said. “Hearing about this patient’s experience reminded me that this what it’s all about. We are blessed to able to give and make a difference for others. It’s the joy in our lives.”
For more information about giving opportunities or services provided by Shepherd’s Cove, call 256-891-7724.