Loving. Devoted. Independent. Adventurous. Four words that Mary Beth and Carol use to describe their mother, Mary Gullo. Living on her own after her husband’s passing until she was 93, she lived a full life. A career in banking, married to a WWII Veteran for over 60 years, two beautiful daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, family vacations every year, and an active participation in her church with a strong faith in God.
“She would talk about Heaven sometimes,” Carol shared. “She was peaceful in her confidence that when she died, she would go to be with God and our dad who passed away in 2008”. A two-time cancer survivor, Mary had overcome challenges, but by June 2020 Mary Beth and Carol saw a significant decline in their mother’s health. After some convincing, Mary agreed to consider an assisted living facility.
Shortly thereafter, however, Mary ended up in the hospital, followed by a rehabilitation facility and then assisted living. With COVID running rampant, Mary had to quarantine each time she changed facilities: “It was very disorienting for her,” remembers Mary Beth. Multiple falls resulted in a cycle of re-hospitalizations. Eventually, the doctors discovered that Mary’s blood count was very low, her condition was worsening, and she was not responding to treatment.
With an advanced directive in place, Carol and Mary Beth knew what their mother would want. Mary would live out her life in comfort and peace. Carol and Mary Beth chose Samaritan. Mary was transferred to the Samaritan Center in Voorhees. After contact with their mother had been limited due to COVID restrictions, Carol and Mary Beth were thankful to be with their mother round the clock at the center.
“We can’t say enough good things about Samaritan”, said Mary Beth and Carol. “The Center is beautiful, quiet, and full of natural light. And everyone – from the volunteer who greeted us at the door to the medical team – was so kind and gracious.”
Carol recalled how each person who entered the room treated her mom with dignity and respect. They not only cared for Mary, but cared for Carol and Mary Beth, too. “The staff had an instinctive ability to be there for us but not be intrusive or overwhelming. They gave us our space but were there when we needed them”, said Mary Beth and Carol.
One day, while Carol was with her mother, a man came in to mop the floor of her mother’s room. Before entering, he asked permission to come in. Carol looked up from her book and invited him in. As he mopped, Carol thanked him for his meticulous work. He responded by saying, “I’m here for your family member. I might have my hands on this mop, but God has his hands on my hands”. Recalling this interaction, Carol became emotional. “I was so touched,” she said, “I will never forget that moment.”
Two others Mary Beth and Carol will never forget are Gary Schmidt, Samaritan Spiritual Support Counselor, and Charity Jones, Samaritan Music Therapist. Mary was a woman of faith and Gary came to pray at her bedside. Charity would sing the hymn “In the Garden,” which was one of Mary’s favorites. On this particular day, as Charity sang, Carol ran her fingers through her mom’s hair. At the closing of the song, it was time for Mary’s medication. The nurse suggested Carol take a walk. She strolled through the garden at Samaritan Center, taking in the beautiful surroundings. After less than 10 minutes, she returned to her mother’s room and her mother had peacefully passed away. “Our mom and dad both waited until they were alone to take their last breath. They were loving, devoted parents, protecting us until the very end.”
Carol and Mary Beth asked all those who cared for Mary to make a donation to Samaritan in lieu of flowers. Collectively, these donations can do so much.