Bereavement center hopes to ease grief by sharing it Woman receives $450 to buy son's tombstone


Pat Favoy doesn't have to worry now that somebody else will be buried on top of her dead son in an Annapolis cemetery.

When 7-year-old Olonzo died of liver cancer in February, Favoy, a single mother, had no money to bury him. Friends raised the money. But another $500 was needed for a gravestone.

Favoy shopped around for the least expensive stone, but even those were beyond her means. She wept that she would be unable to put flowers on her child's grave; when the grass grew back in Pine Lawn Memorial Park, she wouldn't even know where it was.

Then the county's hospice -- and a church youth group -- stepped in to help.

Alerted by a bereavement worker from the Hospice of the Chesapeake, about 20 teen-agers from the Severna Park United Methodist church held a car wash earlier this month to buy Favoy's son a gravestone.

In four hours of splashing soapsuds, the youth group raised $450.

"We all felt so good," said church member Lee Ferrell. "Everyone seemed to work a little harder than normal, and people in the community were so generous."

Favoy, 29, received the news Friday.

"They called me and told me they had enough money for the marker," she said. "I got to choose whether I wanted a prayer hand [on the gravestone] or a heart or a stone with children. I wanted the heart that says 'Love.' Now I can visit his grave and know where it is."

Hospice social workers had followed the family through Olonzo's terminal illness with liver cancer. Normally, the hospice, a non-profit organization, follows a family through such an illness and for up to 15 months after the family member dies.

Much has been written about hospices around the country, but Anne Arundel's has garnered special honors for its bereavement program. Last week, the hospice was honored at the National Hospice Conference in Virginia.

Most hospices in the country offer bereavement as a part of their services to families of dying patients, but the county's hospice group expanded its bereavement program into a full-service center.

The group offers help for families dealing with a suicide, murder and other kinds of bereavement, as well as terminal illness. The Millersville-based center has a library and videotapes and takes educational programs to local colleges. In one year, the counseling staff has grown from two interns to seven.

The center, at 403 Headquarters Drive, achieved the growth last year -- while saving money -- by a simple switch.

A certified, but non-degreed, worker became the center's director. The more expensive professional psychologist the center was employing full time became a consultant.

Then the center added interns from a pastoral counseling education program at Loyola College. The interns all have undergraduate degrees in their field and are working toward master's degrees and doctorates. They work under psychologist Constance Read's part-time supervision.

"It was very cost-effective to switch roles," says Betty Asplund, director of the bereavement center, who switched positions with the psychologist. She is certified in bereavement support from ADEC, the Association for Death Education and Counseling.

She and Read received status last week as members of the Hospice National Faculty, a prestigious honor within the organization. As a result, they were able to sell manuscripts at the conference explaining "how we did our center," Asplund says.

"We got a nice income for the center just by selling manuals," she said. "Since we got home, we've had hospice directors calling us from all over the country."

Asplund notes that much credit goes to her assistant, Marilyn Coffey. "I couldn't run my program without her," said Asplund. Coffey refuses any salary even though she works three full-time days a week.

Asplund's current goal is to "teach people how we did what we did." Hospice workers also plan to expand their work involving children, the director said.

"It can mean so much to a parent just to have the support," she said.

Favoy testifies to the truth of the hospice's motto: "Grief shared is grief diminished."

She had watched Olonzo, a happy child who made straight A's in school, suffer for two years.

"He wouldn't really tell anybody when he hurt," Favoy recalls. "In the hospital he would just push the button for more morphine."

But the kindness of the hospice worker helped, Favoy recalls.

"Before [Olonzo] went in the hospital for the last time, she tried to get me a bed so I could stay downstairs with him. I was pregnant and sitting up on the couch with him."

After Olonzo died, Favoy tried to visit the grave and couldn't find it.

"I wasn't going to give up," she says, though she'd saved only $63 for the stone. But then the Hospice of the Chesapeake stepped in.

Favoy has named her new baby after her dead son. As soon as the marker is erected, she plans to take the infant to put flowers on Olonzo's grave.

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