Times have changed since the earliest settlers celebrated Thanksgiving. There were no football games to watch, no Manchester Road Race to get in shape for. There were no cars, nor trains, nor planes to bring families together.
One thing that has remained the same, however, is the notion of thankfulness, to be grateful for the good that comes our way, and for the angels around us that help lighten our burdens during difficult times.
For the family and friends of Eileen Medeiros, Diane Kyle, of Manchester, is one such angel. A graduate of the St. Francis School of Nursing who worked for the hospital from 1968 through 1983, and then for various visiting nurse associations in the greater Hartford area and for the Hebrew Home in West Hartford, Kyle took Medeiros into her home to provide hospice care until Medeiros' death on Nov. 2.
Kyle and Medeiros were not related. They were simply neighbors in the same condominium complex who got to know and like one another over the years.
"For me, [Kyle's] doing something that is very special," said Jean Labutis, another neighbor in the complex. "It goes back to a time when neighbors really went out of the way for one another, looked after each other. You don't see that much anymore."
About a year and a half ago, Kyle said Medeiros was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a pre-cancerous leukemia type of illness.
"She was going through chemo and all the various treatments, but she became progressively sicker with episodes of infections and weakness," said Kyle. "She reached a point, finally, where she told her husband, Andy, she didn't want to hurt anymore and wanted to go on hospice."
"Eileen was 80 and Andy is in his 80s, and he simply couldn't take her home and care for her," said Kyle. "Eileen was just such a phenomenal, fantastic, kind woman who volunteered for her church and at Manchester Hospital. I didn't want her in a facility, so I said she could come to my house for hospice care."
Everything happened quickly after that. With the decision made on a Thursday, a hospital bed arrived at Kyle's home Thursday afternoon and was set up in her spare bedroom. Medeiros was brought to her home Thursday evening. Kyle chose Masonicare for comfort care and the agency sent a nurse to provide pain medications. A home health care aide came each day for two hours.
For the Medeiros family, Kyle's offer was a true blessing.
"Her family was here all the time, with friends and relatives helping me as her situation progressed," she said.
Her husband could walk over, sit in the rocking chair she set up in the spare bedroom, and hold his wife's hand. Her granddaughter visited from Missouri. Her grandson, Nicholas, with whom she was very close, came to see her. Kyle, who had been walking the Medeiros' dog, Goliath, for years, could bring him over to climb up on the bed and give her hugs.
"Quality of life is as important as quantity, and when she died a week later on All Souls Day, she was with her family and she was comfortable," said Kyle.
Kyle has since been "adopted" by the Medeiros family, and they've invited her to Thanksgiving dinner at son Wayne's house, where she plans to bring her specialty, a chocolate pie.
"The family has been wonderful, and Andy is adjusting," said Kyle. "I would do it again in a heartbeat, because that's what friends are for. I loved Eileen."