Rachel Garcia, 44, kept the details of her illness private to protect her family. She didn’t want her husband Jose Garcia, and her four kids, Ernesto DeLeon, Damian DeLeon, Yesenia Garcia, and Jose Garcia Jr. to worry. So when she needed to be taken to the emergency department on Mother’s Day in 2016, they were shocked to learn her cancer spread to her bones, broke a rib, and caused the rib to puncture a lung.
Christine Parker-DeLeon, Rachel’s daughter-in-law, said “The news was earth shattering. We couldn’t figure out how this suddenly became our reality. She always stayed positive and talked about a time when she would be better.”
Rachel, who loved horror movies, 1980’s memorabilia, and cooking was now in severe pain and in the ICU. The woman, who enjoyed breakdancing as a teen, now needed Samaritan’s comfort care and, at the hospital staff’s recommendation, was immediately transferred to The Samaritan Center at Mount Holly.
The attentive care Rachel received during such a difficult time resonated with the Garcia/DeLeon family. “Samaritan didn’t mind that our family, at times eight or 10 of us, including Rachel’s parents, were there at all hours of the day and night,” said Christine. “They even let us to sleep in the lounge area so we could be close to her.”
Ernesto added, “We also appreciated how the staff did my mom’s hair and gave her baths. They spoke to her with such respect even though she spent most of the time sleeping.”
Inspired by Samaritan’s compassionate care for her mother-in-law, Christine submitted an essay about Samaritan for her job’s charitable giving program.
Christine is a contract sales administrator for Miller Transportation Group in Lumberton, NJ. For the second year, the company asked employees to participate in a Charitable Giving Program by writing an essay about why their nominated charity is important to them and why Miller Transportation should donate to it. After reading Christine’s moving submission, Miller Transportation choose Samaritan for a $2,500 donation.
As the family reflected on Rachel’s care at the end of life, this also gave them the opportunity to reminisce about her. Ernesto said, “Each time we cook, especially traditional Puerto Rican food such as carne guisada, we wonder if it passes my mom’s standards.” Rachel not only ran Laundry King in Burlington City, but also sold Puerto Rican food on the side.
Jose Jr., now 15, said he “loved decorating for the holiday and listening to Christmas music” with her. Yesenia, now 16, remarked that she “enjoyed sitting outside and chatting” with her mom and “watching movies such as Fast and Furious and Madea.” Damian, now 26, added that he misses his “mom’s food and having mini cookouts” while Ernesto, now 27, misses his mom’s spunkiness. The last time the family went to Target, Rachel — although in pain and needing a scooter — found a way “to make us laugh by creating sound effects for the scooter as she sped down the aisles.”
For Christine, she remembers the day Rachel said, “Don’t call me Mrs. Garcia, call me Mama” because it spoke volumes about Rachel’s love and warmth. And so when Samaritan’s staff provided Rachel the same love and warmth, it left a deep impression on the Garcia/DeLeon family.
Christine says, “We are so grateful that Samaritan brought a little light to a dark situation and that’s why I felt compelled to submit Samaritan as a nominee for Miller Transportation’s program.”
Thanks to Miller Transportation’s generous donation, and Rachel’s family requesting donations in lieu of flowers in her obituary, Samaritan, a not-for-profit organization, can provide hospice, palliative care, primary care, and grief support services to people who might not otherwise have access to them.