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WESLACO — For the Knapp Medical Center Hospice Care Services team, supporting families of patients suffering from terminal illness is the ultimate display of care and compassion.

That support takes many forms, including the biannual hospice memorial service held on Tuesday, May 17 at the Knapp Medical Center Conference Center that was attended by more than 80 local residents.

The memorial service, which includes scripture readings, prayer and a candle lighting ceremony, gives families who have lost loved ones to illness the opportunity to gather and reconnect with caregivers who often become like family during especially trying experiences.

Knapp Hospice Care Services Director Ruby Torres said the memorial services are important to both her staff and the families they serve.

“For us, it’s a matter of showing that we never forget the patients we serve as a staff,” she said. “It also gives our families some closure and the opportunity to see us again. We walk them through the journey, and that’s so important. When these families come to the memorial service and see other families who have lost loved ones there, they know that they are not alone.”

Weslaco resident Annie Jimenez attended last week’s ceremony in honor of her, father, Teodoro Garcia, who passed away in March. Jimenez said the memorial service provided her family the opportunity to both celebrate her father’s life and support the hospice team that provided compassion and grace during her father’s illness.

“Hospice was very supportive of us, especially my mom. My mother was the sole provider for my father. When the hospice staff would go to visit, everyone was very concerned for her, too,” she said. “They not only cared for my dad, but they took care of my mother, too. Their service was excellent, both spiritually and medically.”

Torres said the Knapp hospice memorial services date back nearly 20 years when the tradition was brought to Knapp by former Chaplain Ernesto Garcia.

“(Garcia) had experience with another hospice, and he brought the idea here and we’ve just kept doing it ever since,” she said. “For our staff, we’ve seen the patients and we’ve been a part of their families. In some cases, some of the families we haven’t seen for a while, so it’s nice to see them and let them know that we’re still here for them.”

For families coping with the terminal illness of a loved one, that dedication can make a world of difference, Jimenez said.

“All of the staff that would go to my mom, they felt like part of the family,” she said. “After they took care of my father, they would sit and talk with my mom and ask her how her day was. We know they were busy with other patients, but each one of them made time to talk to my mom about her day. Even after my father’s death, the chaplain still went by and several of the caretakers would visit or call.”