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A Patient Story: Cliff Goodrich

Written by: Tom Waldron 

I am honored to be asked to share about my partner of 23 years, Cliff Goodrich, who passed away under the care of Hospice of Washington County in Fall 2023.

I first met Cliff in 2000, as we both lived in Catonsville, Md. at the time. The new millennium had just started, and we both felt at an almost immediate connection in our values, outlook and most importantly, our shared sense of humor. 

Cliff was an extremely positive person, who always had a smile and good words to say to others, whether strangers or long-time family and friends. I can honestly say with all sincerity, that Cliff never seemed to have a bad thing to say about anyone—well, maybe an occasional comment about a politician on the news.

Cliff worked for many years as an IT Specialist, but like many of us, his true passions were activities outside of the workplace: hiking, country drives, 70s rock music, cooking and an ongoing interest in paranormal phenomena. Cliff seemed to embody all the positive characteristics of a spiritual person: non-judgement, patience and genuine kindness towards others. 

For many years, I have worked closely with two developmentally disabled men from the Arc of Howard Couty, who became part of our family. We took many vacations with them both and Cliff was always enthusiastic and always engaging with them. They truly came to love him as a brother.

In March 2017, Cliff was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. Neither of us had ever known the definition of those three words until that day. He immediately was placed on 24/7 oxygen supply at home. The prognosis at the time was 2-3 years.

This past summer, Cliff began to feel extremely tired and frequently lose consciousness at home. He had to be hospitalized three times in 2 months, because the toxins in his lungs were rapidly building up and were not able to be expelled. During this last hospitalization, his pulmonologist came to his hospital room and basically said "I think it’s time to discuss hospice.” After he left the room, Cliff just turned to me quietly and said, “Well I guess that’s it.” What can you say at a time like that? Your heart breaks but you're thinking: you must stay strong for them. Cliff’s one wish, after speaking with the hospice staff, was to pass at his home vs. inpatient. Many times, the past several months, he had said to me: “I want to pass in my own home, not in a hospital without you there.” Without hospice this would not have been possible. They arranged for nursing care, medical equipment and medication to make him as comfortable as possible. All his needs were seamlessly arranged, with little to no effort on our part. He came home from the hospital that Friday.

On that following Monday the Hospice Spiritual Counselor/Chaplain came to our home to introduce himself. We sat in our living room, and we had a very nice conversation. Towards the end of their visit, he asked Cliff what his most important goal was for right now, Cliff said without hesitation: “I just want to make it to Christmas”. Well, I literally felt my heart drop b/c despite holding onto to the thinnest of hopes so many times over the past couple of years, I knew in my heart that this was not going to happen.

Cliff passed away 4 days later on Sept 28th. I miss him every minute, every hour, every day.

I just want to add with heartfelt gratitude how incredible the hospice team has been. Although we only experienced the hospice experience at home for 5 days, the bereavement team have been a godsend offering 1:1 counseling and support group aftercare. The Hearts of Hope support group is an ongoing vital part of my life now and I welcome attending as often as possible. To hear others share their stories of loss whether they be only a few days to several years, is a gift and privilege to experience. I encourage anyone here to take advantage of it. It has helped in so many ways that I can’t define.