Mitzi Gerris was a patient at the Kaplan Family Hospice Residence in Newburgh, NY. It was when her health declined rapidly that a creative and thoughtful mission emerged. Mitzi was a newly self-published author of a book she began writing 55 years ago titled A Memoir of a Life Well Lived. Mitzi’s dream of attending her book signing was now in jeopardy.
Janice Valentino, the Director of Marketing and Development for Orange and Sullivan Counties, Inc., knew she had to make this moment happen for Mitzi. She also knew that if this book signing was going to happen it had to happen ASAP.
Janice recalls the events of the day:
I spoke to Mitzi as she lay in her bed and asked if she thought she could sit up and sign a few books. She said she thought she could so I immediately called our administrative offices two miles away and told them we need all hands on deck at the residence because the book signing needed to happen now! Within 20 minutes, the sunroom at the Kaplan Residence had close to 20 people all waiting to have a book signed from our famous author. Family members who were visiting a loved one came out to join the crowd and even two patients came out to be part of the excitement. When Mitzi heard that the book signing was happening, she mustered up all her strength to get out of bed. The nurses and aides dressed her and sat her in her wheel chair. When I walked in to her room, I was astonished to see her combing her hair, spraying it and then asking if she needed lipstick!
As Mitzi was wheeled down the hall, she turned to me and said that she did not think she could speak, and asked if her brother Mickey could speak for her. When she saw all the people there, she turned to her brother and said, “Mickey, I can do it.” And she did! She spoke, greeted people, and signed all the books she had. Mitzi had no idea that all those people in the room where hospice employees, patients and other family members. All she knew was she was at her very own book signing and she was beaming. After about an hour, Mitzi went back to her room, got in bed and never got up again.
Mitzi enjoyed every moment of her book signing on February 11, 2015 in the beautiful sunroom of the Kaplan Family Hospice Residence in Newburgh, NY. She beamed as her brother Mickey Corn, read an excerpt from her long awaited labor of love.
A Memoir of a Life Well Lived in deed, is sprinkled with stories of her marriage to Lee, the love of her life, funny escapades and a tragedy or two. Mitzi said, “It was just my life and I wanted to tell it.” This wonderful book is written in a style that could only be Mitzi. As you read each chapter, each a little story of its own, you can almost hear Mitzi telling the stories herself.
“You made my sisters wish come true, a Mitzvah” (a good deed, a blessing) said her brother Mickey.
Mitzi passed away five days later, on the morning of February 16, 2015. Her family was so happy for the care Mitzi received during the last chapter of her life…book signing and all.
Her story and book signing made the front page of the Senior Gazette giving Mitzi her final dream come true…to be famous!
*This story is part of the NHPCO National Campaign “Moments of Life made possible by hospice”