When Bonnie June Bailey took her last breath surrounded by her family, her granddaughter Heather Cope took comfort in a promise made years earlier to her grandmother.
Understanding Bailey’s final moments requires a glimpse into her life. Born in 1926, Bailey faced an early life of poverty and health problems. As if growing up in a home with dirt floors with barely enough food to eat for her and her four brothers wasn’t enough, Bailey was stricken with polio at a very early age.
From that point, most of her childhood years were spent in braces, preventing her from running and playing around her rural Tennessee home. Later years brought more complications from severe osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. In fact, she had all the joints in her fingers and toes replaced at one time or another.
Despite many surgeries on nearly every part of her body and constant pain, Bailey raised three boys of her own and adopted Cope, her two-year-old granddaughter who did not have an ideal home. Bailey’s physical problems never seemed to stop. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy, only to have it recur years later resulting in another mastectomy. By this time her young adopted grandchild was an early teen and became her grandmother’s primary caregiver. This situation wasn’t easy on anyone, particularly when her grandchild was married and Bailey was wheelchair bound.
Bailey lived with one fear: Living in a nursing home. Her granddaughter, however, made her grandmother (Mimi) a promise. “You took me in when I was young and provided a good environment for me, so I promise I’ll always make sure you have a good home to live in,” said Cope.
That promise required Cope, her husband and three children to make sacrifices. Nights were particularly hard as Bailey became bed bound. Her pain and sleepless nights kept the entire family up for hours and made their family situation stressful. One day, Bailey’s doctor suggested Baptist Trinity Hospice–and life became manageable.
Baptist Trinity helped the family set a care schedule that met Bailey’s needs, and more importantly, kept a granddaughter’s promise. Nurses visited Bailey at home under the direction of the hospice medical director, concentrating on helping with pain management. Baptist Trinity even paid for her medications. Nurse aides visited several times each week to supplement the family care while volunteers, social workers and the chaplain provided additional support.
A few months later, Bailey took her last breath with her family by her side. She was in her bedroom with her favorite people holding her hand. She was free from pain and ready for her new body in heaven. The small children in her home struggled with the fact that their Mimi was no longer with them to read them bedtime stories or kiss their hurts, but thanks to the help of the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief and Camp Good Grief, they were able to learn to cope with the tremendous loss they had suffered.
“I don’t know how we would have gotten through it all without Baptist Trinity,” said Cope. “My family is so blessed to have had Mimi in our home for so many years. Just to know that I could keep my promise to her means the world to me.”
Baptist colleagues have generously supported Baptist Trinity Hospice for years, contributing $1.2 million toward the construction of the Baptist Trinity Hospice House – the Mid-South’s first residential hospice facility – and the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief. Colleagues will soon have the opportunity to support those services once again during Baptist’s annual Above and Beyond employee giving campaign. Stay tuned to the Baptist Leader for more information, or to donate at any time, please contact the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation at 901-227-7123, 800-895-4483 or bmhgiving.org.