We recently sat down with Holly Miller to discuss her gift in support of Fletcher Allen’s Rural Palliative Care Network.
Q: You and your husband are both Vermonters. How have your backgrounds shaped your life choices?
A: I think that, for all of us, the early years last forever. I had wonderful parents, who taught us great values – my father worked hard as a butcher for Mackenzie’s. But there was also an undercurrent of desperation, because there wasn’t enough income to cover even the basics – like the rent. My background taught me many things – but most importantly, good, solid values, and a strong work ethic.
Q: Was there a defining moment in your life that led to your interest in hospice and palliative care?
A: Twenty-seven years ago, my father, who was dying of colon cancer, shared with us that he wanted to die at home. At the time, I didn’t know anything about hospice care. I asked him, “Dad, how are we going to do this?” His response was “I’ll show you.”
My parents wanted to spend their last summer together at the family camp where they had spent their honeymoon. In those last weeks of my father’s life, he was more present than I had ever seen him. He began to share his emotional side, and it was a tremendously powerful, intimate time for our whole family.
For me, the defining moment – or series of moments – was witnessing how he accepted his dying and how much he trusted that we could care for him. Two years later, I started hospice training.
Q: Were these experiences a factor in your decision to make a gift to Fletcher Allen’s Palliative Care Program?
A: I’ve been watching the palliative care program grow at Fletcher Allen. The idea of the Rural Palliative Care Network really appealed to Bob and me. Nothing could make us happier than knowing that our team at Fletcher Allen is sharing resources with physicians in Vermont and northern New York that will help their patients live as well as they can, as long as they can.
Q: You and your husband have demonstrated a tremendous spirit of philanthropy over the years in a number of areas. Can you talk about why you are committed to Fletcher Allen?
A: I know Fletcher Allen is an academic medical center and a tertiary care center . . . but, to me, it’s our community hospital. It’s part of our neighborhood. My friends and family – as well as Bob and I – have all had major life experiences here. We believe that it’s important to support our community hospital, and to put our names out there, so that we may inspire others to give.
Q: What would you say is the most important thing for health care providers to think about when a patient is nearing the end of life?
A: Everyone deserves a good death. Everyone deserves to able to be their authentic selves as they are going through the end-of-life experience, to be pain-free, and to know that they are loved and cared for.
Q: And for all of us, what would you suggest is important as we think about our own mortality?
A: We all have to find a way to come to terms with our own mortality. My own philosophy is, prepare for the worst, let your family and friends know your wishes – and live every day to the absolute fullest. Be present, every single day.
Fletcher Allen’s Rural Palliative Care Network, made possible through the generosity of Bob and Holly Miller, is an expansion of our palliative care service. The Network offers an array of services for hospitals and health care providers in the region, including telemedicine palliative care consultations; site visits by our providers; and a palliative care mentorship program.