Those were the feelings of Jim Larson and his four boys (Matt, Pete, Dave and John) when they decided—along with their beloved wife and mom, Alice—that it was time to move her to Solvay Hospice House. Alice was cared for by Jim at home until the trips to the hospital got to be more frequent and the care she needed got to be more intense.
When Alice entered Solvay, her heart was failing, along with her kidneys and her liver, but not her spirit.
She and Jim had 58 years together, raising the boys, spending time at the cabin, traveling to Mexico, Canada and through back roads in areas of the United States that not many people have seen. They rock hounded in Utah, saw the redwoods, went to the butterfly migration in Mexico and fly fished in Canada.
“It was a tough journey all the way through Alice’s illness, but when we got to Solvay, it calmed everything down. We weren’t looking for the end, just the calmness of moving on.”—Jim
“Alice never had a mean bone in her body,” says Jim. “She thought everyone was great. She loved golfing. All I had to do was mention the word ‘golf’ and she was already in the car. She loved racquetball, hiking, being outdoors—and she really loved her grandchildren.”
“We did good. We were a team,” says Jim. And so it was that as a team, Alice and Jim (and the boys too) decided it was time to go to Solvay.
“We talked about what we were going to do. I looked at some places,” says Jim. “One of the hospitalists and a social worker at Essentia were helping us out and they mentioned Solvay. I knew people who had been there. When they mentioned Solvay we said yes right away. We could see it was time. It was the right thing to do. Someone was watching over us to get us to go there.”
Solvay Hospice House was created for the community by Miller-Dwan Foundation, which owns and is responsible for the hospice’s continued stewardship. It is nestled on 9.5-acres of pristine woodlands and bathed in the light of floor-to-ceiling windows that follow the rhythm of the sun. It allows those in the last months, weeks or days of their lives to be fully comfortable, to have pain removed and human bonds strengthened. To simply be, and find peace.
Jim says the whole experience was that of peace. One of his favorite things to do when Alice dozed off was to go to the meditation room at Solvay and look out the window at the trees. Alice also enjoyed the views from the window in her room.
“It was a tough journey all the way through Alice’s illness, but when we got to Solvay, it calmed everything down,” says Jim. “We weren’t looking for the end, just the calmness of moving on. We thought we might have three months. We ended up having two weeks.”
Alice and Jim’s son, John Larson, posted the following message on Facebook that Jim says sums up their experience at Solvay—and how the hospice house is such a force for hope for families.
“My family celebrated my mom last weekend at Solvay Hospice House. The care team at Solvay is the BEST! They kept my mom comfortable so she was able to focus on spending time with her friends and family. My dad was able to spend nights there and reminisce with my mother about all the places they traveled and all the memories they made together. We saw my dad go from caregiver back to a doting husband. We wanted to make sure others were able to come to Solvay in their most vulnerable time, so we as a family donated to Solvay Hospice House in memory of Alice Larson. We want to thank everyone who donated in memory of our mother and let them know that we are grateful.”
Alice’s memory will live on in Jim, in her children and in her grandchildren. A favorite that comes to mind for Jim is how she would buy shoes (or send money to buy shoes) for each of her seven grandchildren at the beginning of each school year. To Jim, that tradition was such a genuine expression of her love for each of them.