Category Archives: LGBT Seniors

Two Years Past


Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies. Aristotle

We are taking a break from the thesis project today to remember a significant day in our life. For as long as I live, I know March 9th is going to come around every year.  Significant in the sense that I will always remember March 9th as being the day that Richard made his life transition.  Together as one, our lives changed forever on that day in 2014.

Sure, the pain of losing him has gotten softer, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss him quite a bit.  The love we shared is still strong.   I did not want the day to go unnoticed, nor do I want to belabor the point either.   Finding that gentle balance when you lose the love of your life takes time.  Getting over it, means something different to each one of us.  We don’t really get over it, we adjust to it and move on as best we can. The love we shared is still strong in my heart and always present in my life.

I’m not sure what I will do when March 9th rolls around next year, but what I do know for sure is that my faith tells me that I will see him again, my mind tells me that he is forever pain free and my heart tells me that he is standing right behind me.

Enjoy some of our favorite photo’s from our eleven years together.

  Never miss out on a chance to tell that special person in your life that you love them!

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Filed under After Caregiving, Caregiving, LGBT Caregiving, LGBT Couples, LGBT Seniors

LGBT Caregiving on Healing Ties Radio


Join us on Wednesday, April 1st at 7 pm EST on HealthCafeLive.com as we visit with Ernest    Olivas from Emerald Elite Senior Home Care in Wilton Manors, FL.  Serving the senior LGBT        community in the greater Fort Lauderdale area, Ernest and the staff at Emerald Elite Senior Home Care understand the concerns LGBT
Seniors have when accessing care.  We will talk about the      issues facing LGBT seniors and accessing care and how the staff at Emerald Elite match all their      clients with the right professional Caregiver.    Tune in and hear our ’Healing Ties’ Juke Box song       selected by our guest and  learn how Ernest and Emerald Elite Senior Home Health Care is creating Healing Ties all around us!  Cannot listen live?  NO WORRIES!  Healing Ties is available on demand on our Healing Ties iHeart Channel

To listen to the show live…Simply click here! 

To listen on demand at iHeart Radio, Simply click here! 

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Filed under Healing Ties Radio Show, LGBT Caregiving, LGBT Couples, LGBT Seniors

Pulitzer Prize Nomination: A Posthumous Birthday Gift


Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. Oscar Wilde

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Photo Credit: Carline Jean Photographer for the Sun-Sentinel

Today, January 24, would have been Richard’s eighty-fourth birthday. Last year we celebrated with a small group of friends at one of our favorite stopping grounds, D’Angelo’s, in Fort Lauderdale; it was a fun-filled evening that everyone will always remember.  One of my favorite photos from our story, ‘In Sickness and In Health: A Couple’s Final Journey was snapped at D’Angelo’s last year.  Anticipating those delicious Petit Fours, you see us both peering into the box, as if we are playing a game of peek-a-boo.  While I forget how many Petit Fours were in the box, I do remember that by the next morning, the box was empty!

This week comes the word that our story, ‘In Sickness and In Health: A Couple’s Final Journey’ has been nominated by the Sun-Sentinel for Pulitzer Prize consideration.  I think it is fitting that I share this information with you today on what would have been Richard’s eighty-fourth birthday.  Both modest, yet very accomplished, Sun-Sentinel journalist Diane Lade and photojournalist Carline Jean told our story in a very loving way that has touched over 400,000 people worldwide.  I am thankful because the story has provided me with a very special memory that will last a lifetime.

Those who knew Richard knew him to be a private person.  For him to agree to do the story was his gift of love, care, and commitment to me.  I return it two-fold.  I am reminded of some sage advice that I have received along the way since Richard’s life transition: ‘The feeling of missing him will get softer, but the love you shared will always be strong.’  I think of these words of wisdom quite often, especially today on his birthday with this special news, reminds me how strong love can be in one’s life.

My faith tells me that I will see him again; my mind tells me that he is forever pain-free; my heart tells me that he is right next to me.

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Superstars: Diane Lade and Carline Jean

I thank Diane Lade and Carline Jean for telling our story through the lens of love, care and commitment as that was the true story of our life together.  In my book, they have already won; they also won Richard’s heart along the way, too.  For without their demonstration of professionalism, along with the love, care, and commitment they showed to us on this journey, Richard never would have felt comfortable, especially over the last few months,  to continue with the story as the cancer took over his body.

Richard said to me just a few weeks before he made his life transition, “Diane and Carline are going to have quite an end to their story.”  That Sunday afternoon on March 9, 2014 when Richard made his life transition, he waited for Diane and Carline to arrive in order to say his goodbye to two people who he allowed into his heart.  Richard let very few people into his life, and in his way, by this very deserving nomination, Richard’s love, care, and commitment, continues to give back to the people he loved, cared and trusted the most.

Congratulations to Diane, Carline and the entire Sun-Sentinel Staff who worked on this project.

Diane Lade and Carline Jean will always have a special place in my heart.

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Filed under Esophagus Cancer, LGBT Couples, LGBT Seniors

52 Years And Still Going Strong!


Join us on Wednesday January 14th  at 7 pm EST on HealthCafeLive.com for an enlightening  conversation with Bob Collier and Chuck Hunziker.  What is so special about Bob and Chuck…EVERYTHING!  Bob and Chuck are both veterans, pillars in their community and they just happen to be a couple celebrating 52 years together!  Both in their 80’s, Bob and Chuck, never meant to be activists or plaintiffs in a lawsuit that would change Florida law, they just   happen to be two people who want the world to be a better place for all of us to live. This is a couple who is creating ‘Healing Ties’ all around us!

Can’t listen live on Wednesday?  NO Worries!  Healing Ties radio is available on demand on iHeartRadio/HealingTies by clicking here!

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Filed under Gay Seniors, Healing Ties, LGBT, LGBT Caregiving, LGBT Couples, LGBT Seniors

Our Follow-Up Story. Life after death: Couple’s story sparks change


Cartier gold-rimmed aviator bifocals, classic disco era. A pair of immaculate, brilliant-green Florsheim slipons, men’s size 7, worn once yearly — on St. Patrick’s Day — for more than three decades. Bathrobes still hanging on a hook.

It’s taken Chris MacLellan about three months to prepare himself for this moment, the sorting through of everything that his partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer, left behind when he died March 9 of esophageal cancer at age 83.

There are the memories, unresolved feelings of loss and a sense of emptiness in the Deerfield Beach home they’d shared for 11 years.

There are the surprises, like the handwritten note tucked inside one of Schiffer’s alphabetized address books: “To love someone is to see the face of God.”

“I think Richard intended me to find the note. I think he left it for me,” said MacLellan, 57.

And there’s the legacy. The couple had agreed to let the Sun Sentinel chronicle their final months together in hopes of bringing awareness to the special challenges that lesbian and gay seniors face at the end of life. Since their story, “In Sickness and In Health, ran April 13, MacLellan has been overwhelmed by the response.

MacLellan has seen everything from letters of support or condolence to health care institutions pledging policy revisions.

Many who read the couple’s story expressed surprise that health care rights are so connected with marriage rights. Some gay couples said they are now considering marrying, even though they live in states like Florida that do not recognize such unions.

“I appreciate the people who have reached out, the kindness. It’s hard to believe that two ordinary people, who lived in a little house in Deerfield Beach, could make such an impact,” said MacLellan, who works as senior services coordinator for SunServe, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning social service agency in Wilton Manors.

‘Who are you?’

In the story, MacLellan described rushing Schiffer to Broward Health North’s emergency room in September and being ignored by intake staff while they questioned his partner.

“When we first got to the ER, [the medical staff] paid 100 percent attention to Richard and didn’t really acknowledge my presence,” MacLellan said at the time. “When I tried to speak up, and give them more of the full story about what was happening, they said, ‘Who are you?'”

With Broward Health Staff

Speaking to upper level management at Broward Health North. Photos: Carline Jean, Sun-Sentinel Staff Photographer

A day after the story’s publication, MacLellan received a call from Broward Health North CEO Pauline Grant.

She invited MacLellan to speak at the hospital’s next management meeting.

“I was disappointed that we didn’t do a better job,” Grant said. “The emergency department is our front door, and we need to treat all of our families and patients with courtesy and respect.”

On May 15, MacLellan sat in a hospital conference room surrounded by almost 50 doctors, nurses and administrators, calmly retelling his experiences and taking questions. The atmosphere was serious but respectful.

“This is not right, and we are taking it as an opportunity to do better,” Grant said at the meeting.

Now, Broward Health North is working with SunServe to design sensitivity training for hospital employees, starting with those in the emergency room. In the past year, SunServe has been training nurses and health care workers in how to best treat LGBT patients, as well as analyze a facility’s practice for bias — such as using only “single, married and divorced” on records. SunServe has certified two assisted-living centers and a home health agency but had never worked with a hospital before, said the agency’s administrative director, Bryan Wilson.

Talking to Broward Health

Photos: Carline Jean Sun-Sentinel Staff Photographer

MacLellan will become one of the program’s trainers this summer, working with Broward Health North and other facilities.

There are few formal initiatives to make the health care system more welcoming to gay and lesbian patients, said Catherine Thurston, senior director of programs for SAGE, a national advocacy organization for LGBT elders that has helped train about 4,000 health care providers nationwide. More facilities and providers are willing to take steps, she added, as they recognize gay and lesbian seniors are among their patients.

 

 

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“In Sickness and In Health:” My Response to Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi comments on same-sex marriage


“Love, care and commitment is the same for any two people” – Chris MacLellan

Friends,

I’ve taken a break from blogging  in order to adjust to life without my partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer.  Your letters, emails, phone calls of support for me over the past few months is  most appreciated!

On Friday, May 30th I was alerted to the news that Florida’s Attorney General submitted a court document stating  that “same-sex marriages impose significant public harm.”  On Tuesday, June 3rd, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial page wrote, “State wrong in its fight against same-sex marriage” and referenced Richard and I, and our Caregiving story, “In Sickness and in Health A Couples Final Journey”.   In Wednesday’s Sun-Sentinel, Attorney General Pam Bondi responded to Tuesday’s editorial.

Upon reflection of these events, it is important for me to share a letter with you that I have mailed to Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi in regards to her comments on same-sex marriage.

June 3, 2014

 The Honorable Pam Bondi

Attorney General of Florida

The Capitol PL-01

Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050

Dear Madam Attorney General:

I write this letter in the hopes of sharing a position contra to that identified in your recent court documents that recognizing same-sex marriages “would impose significant public harm.”

Maybe you heard about our story in the Sun-Sentinel a few weeks ago?  I’m told over 400,000 people have read our story, “In Sickness and Health A Couple’s Final Journey.”  As Diane Lade eloquently wrote, “being an older gay couple not recognized by law, navigating a system they feared could rob them of their ability to care for each other in sickness and in health.  After all, legal rights regarding death are intricately entwined with the privileges granted when people marry.”

We never intended that the love that my partner Bernard Richard Schiffer and I shared could become politicized, until I read your recent comments about how same-sex marriage “would impose significant public harm.’

I am fair-minded enough to know that each side has a right to argue your position in this fair state of Florida.  However to deny, ignore, wish away, pretend, assume and say that there are negative consequences in granting basic equal rights, indicates a fundamental disrespect  to gay rights and human dignity.  The arguments you use are the same for those who argued that ‘separate was equal’ and advocated for anti-miscegenation laws.    Like many before you who debated, and denied equality in our society, your current position on this critical issue will be sealed on the wrong side of history.

​I invite you to read our story in the Sun-Sentinel. In fact, I will even share the link with you: http://interactive.sun-sentinel.com/lgbt-dying-couple/.  You might also be interested in some of the readers’ comments that were posted on-line, too.  After reading our story, looking at the pictures and viewing the video, please tell me, the people in this great state of Florida, and everyone in the country,  how the love that Richard and I shared “would impose significant public harm?”

The late Maya Angelou said it right, “Love recognizes no barriers, it jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Once someone understands that love, care and commitment is the same for any two people who are joined together as one, then it becomes obvious why marriage equality is such an important issue in our society.

My prayer for you is that you will see that love is universal and not unique or limited to heterosexuals.

Respectfully,

Christopher J. MacLellan

Deerfield Beach, FL 33441

 

 

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Filed under advocacy, Intergenerational, Legal, LGBT, LGBT Couples, LGBT Seniors

‘In Sickness and In Health’


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Greetings Friends,

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This past Sunday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel published a story on Richard and me entitledIn Sickness & In Health’…(Click here for a link to the interactive story and video.) When we were approached to do this story, Richard and I thought long and hard about the thought of having two people follow us during some of our most intimate times in our life.  Not that our story is any different from those countless number of caregivers out there, however, we  both felt that telling the story from the prospective of a LGBT couple would demonstrate that its OK to love who you love.

Now, almost three full days since the article has been published, I am overwhelmed by the support that this article has generated and felt compelled to thank Diane Lade and Carline Jean from the Sun-Sentinel for telling our story is such a beautiful way.

Since ‘TLO’ made his life transition on March 9th, I have spent quite a bit of time listening to a CD entitled “Love Changes Everything” recorded and produced while I as a member of The Gateway Men’s Chorus in 2010.  At ‘TLO’  memorial service last week in Fort Lauderdale, I used three songs in this CD as part of his celebration of life.  Things That Never Die; Rise Above The Walls; and Somewhere Over The Rainbow.  If time would have permitted, I would have also played, In Whatever Time We Have, Who Will Love Me As I Am and Webber Love Trio.  I plan to incorporate these songs into TLO’s Celebration of Life service in St. Louis on Sunday April 27.

In one of my last blog post before TLO made is life transition, ‘Approaching The Final Destination’, I wrote, “Cancer is not the winner here, Love is the winner!”  Now after reading all the comments on-line and emails that I have received, along with the many phone calls that  have come in,  I now know why I started  to listening again to the CD  from the Gateway Men’s Chorus, because “Love Change Everything!” 

Click here to read our story and see our video:

In Sickness and in Health: A Couple’s Final Journey

Photos and video by Carline Jean

Story by Diane C. Lade

cjmrjoYou see…We might of had Cancer, but Cancer never ever had us…we had love!

 

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Filed under LGBT Caregiving, LGBT Couples, LGBT Seniors, oncology, TLO

The Second Time Around


The only source of knowledge is  experience ~ Albert Einstein 

supportIt has taken me a couple of days to wrap myself around the fact that TLO started Adult Day Care this week.  We have chatted about this option for a number of weeks, but to have this day come to  reality, really hit home for both of us on Tuesday when we got in the car and motored our way down to the Noble A. McArtor Adult Day Care Center.  

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Herman and TLO; Circa 1998

We both have had  previous experienced Adult Day Care, so we were coming from the knowledge of experience, yet that knowledge was just about to turn into our reality as we headed south on highway 95.  “Herman wouldn’t go to Day Care; I finally asked him to at least go for a week, to test it out, to give it a try, to at least help me out” TLO said!  “I guess that is exactly what we are doing today, too!” I responded!   (It has to be that knowledge and experience thing!)

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TLO and Michael Norfleet, Agency Director

As we arrived at the center, we were greeted warmly by the staff and the participants.  It wasn’t too long before the agency’s director, Michael Norfleet came to meet us, we chatted for a bit and then before I knew it, they were both sitting in the lounge chairs, chatting up a storm.  It was then that I knew that the day was on…and time for me to make my quick exit! It was also then when they day actually hit me square in the eye and I started to cry.

I have no doubt that the McArtor Center is the best place for both of us. Established in 2004, The McArtor Center focus is to meet the needs of the LGBT community Noble_McArtor_logo2_140in Broward County, Florida and the center is the first of its kind! In the LGBT community, many seniors in need of daytime or respite care have no option but to attend day care programs that are not open to, and understanding of the special relationships and needs of gay and lesbian seniors. The Noble A. McArtor Center was founded by an extraordinary team of individuals whose vision created a safe, open and home-like atmosphere for all seniors and their caregivers to enjoy, regardless, and supportive of any sexual orientation or identification, race, age, gender, religion or economic level.

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Fr Orlando celebrates his 58th anniversary of his ordination at the Center 2005. Helen and Sonia remain good friends of mine today!

Yet, there is more to the history… More to the knowledge… More to our experience… And more to our story!   Father Orlando’s was one of the first participants to attend the McArtor Center in 2004.  Upon his arrival in Florida in July of 2004, we both agreed that we would need Day Care to help us manage our days. I was a very ‘green’ Caregiver at that time! I remember coming across the center in a newspaper article and was hooked on the first visit. Then I remember what Fr. Orlando said to me on our first day…”I’ll give it a try for a few days to see how I like it!”  Whew, did that sound familiar!   

 Valentine_Kids_QuoteHe, well…we…never regretted one day of our stay at the center and in fact, the socialization and positive attention that Fr. Orlando received  at the center, revived his life and his ministry, which aided him (and me) when he made his peaceful life transition in 2006.   Now looking back almost 10 years, it is amazing to have come full cycle and return to the center.  The staff is different, the participants are different, but there is one thing that is the same, unconditional love!

 Of course, I don’t know what the future holds for us. Now two plus weeks past his radiation treatments, TLO is slowly starting the healing process.  It is going to be an uphill struggle. My guess is that the healing process is only going to be aided by the unconditional love demonstrated to us by the staff at the Noble A. McArtor Adult Day Care Center because as Albert Einstein said: “the only source of knowledge is experience! “

You see…We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Does Not Have Us! 

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Christopher MacLellan is a Certified Senior Advisor, the coordinator of senior services for SunServe Social Services and the host of ‘Be A Healthy Caregiver’ on Blog Talk Radio.  ©ThePurpleJacket

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Progressive Holiday Blog Party with Caregiving.com


Caregiving_Logo_Small1 2013_blog_party-300x199Welcome to the Progressive Holiday Blog Party 2013

Greetings!  ‘The Purple Jacket’ pleased to join the 2013 Progressive Holiday Blog Party with the wonderful members of Caregiving.com.  The Community at Caregiving.com  is like having an extended family;  I am proud to be a part of this wonderful group!

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I graduated from radiation!

For those first time visitors to ‘The Purple Jacket’ welcome and Thank You for stopping by!  I blog about my Caregiving experience for my partner, who I loving refer to as ‘The Little One.’  He was diagnosed with esophagus cancer in August of 2011.  Given three to four months to live, he has outlived all predictions.   Yet in October of 2013, Cancer has returned to ‘The Little One’ with a vengeance as he was diagnosed with Cancer on the spine.  With three tumors on his spine; ‘The Little One’ just recently completed 30 radiation treatments.  For the most part, he is pain-free at the moment, my that continue!

While each one of us deals with the reality of cancer in a different way, each 20131015-225104.jpgone of us wants to look on the bright side of life. Yesterday is gone, today is here, not sure about tomorrow. It is our hope that lets us withstand problems; it is our beliefs that let us find solutions.

I have been blogging here and at Caregiving.com for almost two years now.  The Caregivers I have met along the way have become a part of our family.   While our Caregiving journey’s might be different, Caregivers have this innate ability to understand each other, to be there for each other, to care for each other.  

Things that I am looking forward to in 2014:

My Blog Talk Radio Show, ‘Be A Healthy Caregiver’  has been on hiatus since October, but will be back on the air in January with a new title, ‘Healing Ties.’  You can visit my Blog Talk Radio page and listen to archived versions of the show by clicking here! 

I will be (returning) to studying Theology at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine with the intent to finish my Thesis, ‘The Social Sin of Geriatric Care in America.”

I hope we do another CareCruise in 2014!

To learn more about me,  I invite you to visit my ‘about page’ on my website by clicking here.

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 We Might Have CancerBut Cancer Does Not Have Us!

TLOCJM

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Filed under advocacy, Advocate, Caregiving, LGBT Caregiving, LGBT Couples, LGBT Seniors

What’s On Your Refrigerator?


The Giving Of Love Is An Education In Itself…  Eleanor Roosevelt 

 I was thinking about that television commercial which constantly asks ‘What’s In Your Wallet’ and how catchy their marketing theme is.  I instantly think of Capital One when I hear that phrase…’What’s In Your Wallet’.  We keep most of our important identification and credit cards in our wallet; I think carrying important identification and credit cards in a wallet a common trait for everyone.

As we move into the second phase of palliative radiation treatments, and while engaging our new friends with Hospice Of Broward County, it occurred to me that we are going to have a number of ‘new friends’ visiting us in our home.  It is going to be important for these new friends to have quick access to our important documents which include TLO’s current meds and medication history, doctor information, health care directives, DNR, Durable Power of Attorney.  That is why I put (some of) these  important documents on our refrigerator in our File For Life folder for easy access!  We even spiced our file up with a little New Orléans!

Life

 While I am a big proponent of electronic media and databases, we also have to be mindful that sometimes networks and computers crash.  When you need your most important documents at a moments notice, the last thing you need is a failed hard drive or jump drive to add to the stress.  In my opinion, there is nothing that replaces the hard copy of your important documents.

The key to having a hard copy of these documents is to know where they are at a moments notice.  When you are in the midst of an emergency, the last thing that you want to have to think about is..‘where are those documents!  Additionally, you want emergency personnel to have quick access to these documents.   In our File For Life, I have a spreadsheet of TLO’s current meds, Doctor’s / Hospice contact information, Diagnosis, DNR and my contact information.  I also indicate in our File For Life, where the larger documents are located, I.e. Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will.

So…’What’s On Your Refrigerator?’

You see…We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Does Not Have Us! 

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Filed under Cancer, Hospice, LGBT Seniors, oncology

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