Fond Memories

A Long-time Hospicare Supporter Remembers the Early Years

by Marlaine Darfler

In early 2013 when I read an article about Hospicare’s 30th anniversary, it reminded me of my early experiences with the agency. I clearly remembered being 28 years old, pregnant with my first child, and sitting around a table in 1982 with an impressive collection of professionals from the social work and medical fields of Tompkins County. We were discussing the feasibility of opening the first free-standing Hospice in New York State.

Of course, Nina Miller (Hospicare executive director at the time) was present, inspiring the pack. I was there as the director of Tompkins County information and referral services and as the past aging services specialist through the Tompkins County Office for the Aging (COFA). I may have had titles, but not yet a lot of experience. I was in awe of my older colleagues, and I also think I was more focused on the life flipping around in my belly than the task at hand.

There were several years between those exploratory meetings and the realization of the dream. During that time Hospicare continued to provide services to the community through its offices housed up near the hospital. Although I had stopped my paid employment at that time to care for my baby, those months on that committee affected me deeply, and I knew Hospice work was a calling for me. So I packed up my baby in his carrier and traveled to the Hospicare offices where I first served as the volunteer volunteer coordinator and then later as the volunteer bereavement coordinator. In between, I did a lot of office organization. Paid staff at the agency was a rarity in those days.  

Quickly after baby number one, came baby number two and then baby number three, at which point I took a leave from my volunteer work at Hospicare. I was not, therefore, directly involved with the agency during and right after the building stage, but I followed the development and eventual opening of the Residence with great pride.

Years went by and I returned to work as the social worker at Kendal at Ithaca. There I quickly involved myself with Hospicare again, becoming the liaison between Hospicare and Kendal. A few years later I took a different path and embarked on the journey of massage school. The day I passed my NYS Boards I called up Nina Miller and said, “I’m ready!” Now, as a licensed massage therapist, I have had the honor to bring that skill to Hospicare as a volunteer, and the journey is nowhere near the end, at least as far as I know.

Marlaine Darfler, LMT has been involved with Hospicare since our very beginning. In 2013 we recognized her long-time commitment by presenting her with our Hospicare Volunteer Honor.