Before her husband, David died in 2015, his wife, Mary, had Home Hospice help care for him.
Along with that, Davidson decided to take advantage of a service offered by the agency – having Steve Goff, head of the photography department at Odessa College, take photos of her husband as a way of preserving his memory.
“It meant so much to all of us and even Dave,” Mary Davidson said. “He was real happy to do that because he was very close to the end of his life when he did that. I think it’s a wonderful thing. We just appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.”
Davidson died at age 99. Mary said he got up one morning and came into the living room and started reading the newspaper. She recalled that he was dressed in his old fishing clothes. She asked him if he was going to church, but he said no because he wasn’t feeling well.
Later in the day, they were getting ready to watch a Cowboys game and she thought David had gone to sleep. She said she tried to wake him up a couple of times.
“He’d rouse and say, ‘It can’t be better could it? I love you’ and he’d go back to sleep,” Mary said.
Davidson did that throughout the ballgame. Later that night, he died.
“You can’t go any better than that,” Mary said. “For me, it wasn’t a good thing, but for him, he lived up to the very last minute of his life.”
Karen Carter, volunteer coordinator for Home Hospice, said that is one of the most wonderful things about the agency is that the patient matters until the very end and Davidson died on his terms.
Mary Davidson said her husband told her he didn’t need to be on hospice, but his doctor told him it was either hospice or the hospital. Like a lot of people, Davidson said her husband wasn’t sure what hospice was, but it gave him the option of staying in his home and being cared for.
“He was really happy with all the girls that came and the treatment that he got was just marvelous. We were happy with that. I said one day I would be calling them to come see me. I’m just 89,” Mary said.
Goff said both his parents were on hospice care and was so taken by the love and care offered that he wanted to give something back. That’s why he started offering to photograph for hospice.
The service is free and Carter noted that insurance and Medicare and Medicaid cover hospice costs. She added that Hospice also follows the families for a year after the death of a loved one.
Through the years, he has photographed eight or nine families. He added that he was grateful for the chance to photograph Davidson.
“He was such a nice man, a gentle man. I think I came back twice and photographed (him),” Goff said. “That doesn’t happen often, but I felt like there were still some nice pictures to be made here and he was willing and you were willing to help support that. I’m really glad that happened.”
Carter said she knows some families are hesitant to let a photographer into their home while their loved one is sick because there is so much going on. But she observed that the photos represent an everlasting gift.
“There is something about the print — the physical thing,” Goff said.
Goff was named outstanding educator at the Odessa College Honors Luncheon in November 2017.
He added that he takes 60 to 150 photos each time.
“When I’m shooting I’m trying to be respectful; I’m trying to be invisible and trying not to interrupt something important that might be going on, but I’m not hesitant about asking to go outside … I try to be soft and gentle and ask if we can do that or not. Mr. (Davidson) was in pretty good physical shape. He could walk and we carried on really stimulating conversation. We talked a long time before we got the cameras out,” Goff said.
After the last family he photographed in August 2017, Goff said he felt motivated to let people know that hospice has this feature.
“I think it’s really beautiful. It’s probably not for everybody, but when it happens and there’s a connection made like here (with the Davidsons) or with this family from August. It’s a really emotional and beautiful thing,” Goff said.
Davidson said she and her husband were married for 15 years. It was the second marriage for both. They attended Asbury United Methodist Church.
“We had known one another forever. I guess we all went to the same church. We were in the same Sunday school class. His wife and my husband died about the same time — pretty close. My husband had been gone for two and a half years. We had a game group that met at the church. I was going to that he started coming to that. … It was just a bunch of old women, mostly, and him. He went with all of us.
“One Saturday afternoon, he asked me if I’d go out to dinner with him. He called me nearly every day after that,” Mary Davidson said.
She said she would encourage other families to have photos taken as part of hospice care and that it was a wonderful experience.
Carter said many people feel hospice equals dying. But she contends it means living.
“It’s being able to provide pieces of the puzzle, like Steve, to be able to come in and to me it reinforces that whole thing about hospice equals living. We’re a support system and a help system for families to enable to them to live the best they possibly can until God calls them home,” Carter said.
Home Hospice in Odessa may be reached at 580-9990.