Mother cries

George Snow wraps an arm around his mother, Tammy, during the family reunion. Tammy, who had not seen her family in two decades, has terminal cervical cancer.

The drive from Cleveland, Ohio, might not seem long to some people, but to one former resident it was a journey that took almost two decades.

Tammy (Baird) Snow, a terminally ill woman being cared for during the last stages of her life at Odyssey HealthCare of Cleveland, made the trip to Danville on Tuesday thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Snow, 47, was diagnosed with cervical cancer about a year ago. She is in the final stages of the disease.

“It was tough on her,” Cindy Grant, the facility’s medical social worker, said Wednesday morning about the trip to Danville. Grant and Kathy Shephard, RN and patient care manager at Odyssey, accompanied Snow on the drive Tuesday to her former hometown.

“She slept well last night. We got her up this morning and she had her medicine. We think she’ll be feeling OK by the time her relatives arrive,” Grant said.

Reconnecting

Snow lost touch with her family 20 years ago. Until Wednesday, she hadn’t seen her three children since they were small. It had been years since she’d even spoken to her other relatives or her friends.

Soon after she entered hospice care at Odyssey, she confided her desire to be reunited with her family to Grant.

That began a series of events that led to Wednesday’s reunion. Grant enlisted the help of the Commercial-News, which publicized Snow’s final wishes.

Family members and old friends soon contacted her. No one knew the exact whereabouts of her youngest child, Jasper.

That’s where another stranger stepped in. Jack Smith, a private investigator with a Danville office, located Jasper in Louisville, Ky. He has since returned to Danville and his family.

With most of the family, including Snow’s other son George, daughter Angel and brother Steve accounted for, the next step was getting together.

At first, the plan was to have the family come to Cleveland. Grant applied for financial assistance to Dream Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to terminally ill adults with less than a year to live.

The foundation hopes to provide “peace and resolution” in the lives of dying adults. It offers funds for transportation, lodging and medical equipment.

Reunion

As Snow’s condition worsened and the number of family members hoping to reunite with her increased, the decision was made to bring her to Danville. Wednesday’s lunchtime meeting at the Fairfield Inn on Lynch Road was the setting for her dream come true.

Her sons George and Jasper Snow, her brother Steve Baird and his former wife Wendy Brown and her late brother Ken’s daughter and her husband, Melisha and David Diamond, all attended.

The object of their affections, Tammy, was rolled to the hotel lobby in a wheelchair by Shephard.

As with most reunions, there was surprise and delight from both sides.

“You’ve changed so much,” Snow told her sons. “You’ve growedup to be men.”

Her brother heard a sisterly comment. “You look old,” Snow told him.

When Snow saw Wendy, Steve’s former wife, she rose from her wheelchair and the two hugged. The women have been friends for more than 25 years.

“Remember when we used to go to the Laundromat together?” Snow asked. The ice was broken, the catching up began and the memories tumbled out.

Plans

Before long, Snow’s prognosis and her future became the topics under discussion.

“I’m coming home,” Snow said. “I’ve been gone too many years.”

As the family struggled to figure out the arrangements, Shephard was the voice of reason.

“We’ve got to do this the right way,” she advised. “Where will you stay? Who’s going to take care of you?” she asked Snow.

“(Tammy) needs someone to be with her all the time,” Shephard told the family. “Today is a very good day for her. Her condition will change and get worse. There will be a steady decline. You don’t have much time.”

Snow’s new team, made up of former strangers, family and an old friend spent the rest of the afternoon trying to work out the arrangements.

“Life is too short to wait,” Steve Baird said. “We want to make it as peaceful for her as possible.

“This will be the best Christmas present we ever had,” he said.

Grant called the Commercial-News Thursday morning as she and Shephard prepared to leave for the return trip to Cleveland — without Snow.

She said the terminally ill woman would stay with her friend Brown and that hospice care would be provided for her through Carle Home Healthcare.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Grant said.

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