Cardinals have always been deeply linked to concepts such as life and death, renewal and happiness. For Sandy Capell and her family, seeing a cardinal at the Samaritan Center in Voorhees on the day of their mom’s death gave them peace.
“We believe the cardinal my sister saw was the spirit coming for my mom,” says Sandy. “The cardinal flew just in front of her car’s windshield, landed in a tree, and watched her.”
(Photo: Sandy Capell and her mom, Kathryn.)
For Sandy’s mom Kathryn, the bird also represented how she lived her life. She was a strong and independent spirit who wasn’t afraid to spread her wings and fly.
At 16, she moved with her family from a quiet farm In Illinois to Bellmawr Park, NJ, for her father’s new job at Camden NJ’s shipyard. In 1951, she married and took time off work to raise her four children. After her husband passed away in 1982, she reinvented herself at 55 years old and went back to work, finally retiring from the Woodbury YMCA in 2012. For the past seven years, she lived in assisted living but in March of this year, at age 93, a fall landed her in the hospital. Ultimately, her family called Samaritan.
“I always knew that Samaritan was a gem in our community, but when I needed them most, I got to see why and how they earned their reputation,” Sandy says. “I needed my mom to be in a comforting environment where she would be lovingly cared for.”
Quickly, Sandy and her family knew they had made the right choice. “Just watching their [the Samaritan nurse and aide] interaction with my mom showed the level of attention to detail that was loving and genuine,” says Sandy. “I do believe people are called to this type of work.”
Sandy and her sister visited their mom for several hours every day. “At Samaritan, the staff took the time to educate us about the end-of-life process and what my mom was experiencing. This was very comforting to us.” And when they left each afternoon, they took solace in knowing the Samaritan staff was there, caring for their mother, and providing them with frequent updates.
“Samaritan’s spiritual support staff visited daily,” recalls Sandy. “They were amazing. They left behind a Book of Psalms, which I read with my mom each day. It was healing.”
Longer than expected, Kathryn remained at the Samaritan Center at Voorhees for seven days. “Although my mom was not awake, my sister and I reminisced through laughter and tears because we knew she could hear us. We gave my mom permission to leave when she was ready,” Sandy explained, “but the staff suggested that she could be waiting for someone.” So, family members began calling and sending messages of love through the telephone, and after hearing from the rest of her family, Kathryn could rest. About 90 minutes after seeing the cardinal, she passed away in peace.
“Hospice is nothing like I thought it was,” Sandy concludes. “Whatever level of comfort or support you need is available. Samaritan deserves its reputation. It is a place like no other, and no one can realize that until they experience it.”