Day 77: Acceptance

Thank you to our friends at the Universe Bulletin for sharing this story last week

Dr. Thomas Crawford brings about his usual cheerfulness during a routine visit with Othesha Nash, RN Case Manager, Holy Family Hospice.

How does one get a grasp on acceptance, even through all of life’s challenges?

Many people believe that things happen for a reason—that the path that has been laid for them is meant to be a learning experience. Some discover that the trials they face ultimately lead them to connecting spiritually with God, and acceptance follows.

That’s what happened for Dr. Thomas Crawford, a resident at St. Augustine Towers Assisted Living Community in Cleveland. He has been transformed from hardship and tragedy to a long-awaited level of acceptance.

At eighty-six Dr. Crawford is articulate, confident, and at a place of contentment. He is happy. He is at peace. This is what he has wished for.

As he describes his life, Dr. Crawford occasionally becomes misty-eyed, especially when he talks about his five children and the difficult times they endured as a family. He recalls his medical career where he spent four years in the Health Clinic at Charity Hospital. Then the next twenty years in private practice as a doctor of internal medicine in Parma. “I remember making house calls,” he said. “We don’t see that anymore.” His career wound down after ten years in preventive medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

In the early fifties and for several years thereafter, Dr. Crawford would visit some of his patients who lived at Holy Family Home in Parma. Hospice was unfamiliar to most back then, and he relied on the expertise of the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne who started Holy Family Home in 1956—forerunners in end-of-life care around the country. He was open to learning their model of caring for the cancerous poor. “It was a life-changing experience,” he said as he called to mind other memories of Holy Family Home. He made it a point to visit patients with cancer so he could learn more about them, their feelings, their fears, their hopes. He found greater success in treating the person as an individual, not as a patient. His philosophy was a foreshadowing of sorts to Dr. Bernie Siegel’s Love, Medicine and Miracles, long before anyone ever heard of the author.

It wasn’t until he developed prostate cancer, underwent brain surgery, survived a number of other maladies and later became a hospice patient that Dr. Crawford recognized the need to “have things the way he thought they should be.”  What did that mean to him? And how does that impact him today?

For seven years Dr. Crawford has been living at St. Augustine Towers. Last year he was admitted into Holy Family Hospice. It is because of the wonderful care he has received from hospice that he found solace and spiritual awakening. This was the way he envisioned his spiritual journey to be. “The place where I live, and hospice, is unbelievable. When I came here, I became a new person. My medications were regulated. Everyone has been kind. This is a new beginning for me. I am now able to live as a recipient of hospice the way I always imagined it should be.”

When Dr. Crawford was asked about his spiritual place at this time in his life, the one word he repeated was “acceptance.” When he was first diagnosed with cancer many years ago and suffered with subsequent illnesses since then, he tried to adjust himself to accept the illnesses. Being a former doctor and having to turn his life over to doctors was not easy. It meant giving up control. He sank into depression and was discouraged. “It wasn’t what I had envisioned for the rest of my life,” he said.

With the guidance of Holy Family’s pastoral team and the wonderful care he receives from the clinical staff at Holy Family and St. Augustine, Dr. Crawford has gradually drawn a different picture of himself. “Hospice taught me that I needed to do what God wants,” he said with conviction. He further reflected… “All that God has given me—the trials and hardships, the medical ailments and cancer—led me to hospice. It led me to understanding that there was a reason all these things happened.”

Dr. Crawford has learned to accept things for what they are. “I am in a much better place mentally. I am happy with the way things are,” he said.

Through his hospice experience, Dr. Crawford believes that he has met God on a unique level. “God did the right thing,” he said. “All he wanted was for me to accept my life the way it is. I can now appreciate and recognize my gifts. Holy Family Hospice helped me get to this place.”

It is a new beginning for Dr. Crawford because now he is able to do the things he was not able to do seven years ago due to his medical conditions. He inspires us to experience with great joy this journey of life and faith. His transformation is enlightening and has made him a richer more confident man. In the eyes of God he believes he has made things right in his life and for sure God must be smiling and thinking what a wonderful example this man is to the rest of the world.

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