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Rather than sending him to retreat within a cocoon of grief, the pain and loss that Jeff Massey has experienced instead have led the Rosharon man to relate a metamorphosis.

The reality of death has inspired him to envision a world where old age, infirmity and even our passing are secondary to hope and renewal.

In October, Massey lost his wife to liver disease. Alicia Garcia-Massey was just 44. Massey, who himself spent 33 days in a coma following a 1986 auto accident, now must care for their two young children — a 5-year-old son and a daughter who will turn 3 in December — alone.

But what Massey wants to convey to others is the message found within a story he wrote many years ago.

Before he had any personal contact with the care of those who are dying, Massey, now 42, had written a story from the perspective of an 87-year-old man whose end is near. In a vivid dream where he envisions turning into a butterfly, the old man experiences elation over being set free.

Now, Massey’s using his story to bring comfort to others, and just as importantly, to bring attention to the work of hospice. Hospice provides care and comfort for people with terminal illnesses, often those with just days or weeks to live. Helping Hands and Hearts Hospice of Lake Jackson tended to Alicia, who herself had worked as a nurse at Houston’s Diagnostic Clinic for more than 20 years.

“This is a down payment — everybody’s gonna die, everybody needs help, brother,” Massey said. “This is something to give somebody something to reach for, something to hope. Maybe a butterfly can represent the souls of all those who are passing.

“It’s hope and faith and something that your loved ones are in a better place.”

William “Sunshine” Tater, Massey’s pseudonym, is the author of “Dream World.” Massey, who describes himself as a “full-time father, part-time writer and dreamer,” wrote the story in 1991, inspired in part by his readings of near-death experiences.

“It just came to me — I can’t really say where it came from,” Massey said. “I’ve been told I’m a character, so there’s a lot of me in ‘Sunshine.’”

Sherwyn Moore is administrator of Helping Hands and Hearts Hospice. Not only did she help care for Alicia, but she helped care for Jeff’s father before he passed away in 1997. In addition, she and Jeff’s mom, Marsha Massey, had been best friends since they started Visiting Nurses Association Hospice of Texas Gulf Coast about 20 years ago.

“In the middle of the night when we were called to go out to his father’s, he told me about the story then,” Moore said. “It’s strange to me how it has come full circle. He had started it way back then and when his wife dies, it comes to life."

Jeff and Alicia were high school sweethearts while attending Alvin High School. They broke up, but remained in touch and some 20-odd years later, would be reunited for seven years. Massey went back to school and became a licensed physical therapist and worked as physical therapist assistant from 1994 to 2000.

When their first child was born in 2000, Massey — who still suffers from the effects of his 1986 head injury — became a full-time, stay-at-home father.

“It’s tough, brother. I was always used to her coming home each day,” Massey said. “Now she won’t ever be coming home again.”

“It wasn’t until a week before she died that they let their family know,” Moore said. “The hardest part I had was when I found out they had been battling this for a while. We feel like if we know a little ahead of time we can provide a little more support. They didn’t get to experience fully what hospice can provide.”

“Nobody can say enough good things about hospice,” Massey said. “Everybody should be able to die in their own home, where they’re in control.”

For now, Massey is drawing strength from his mission to aid hospice and provide inspiration to others with the story found in “Dream World.”

“(Alicia) loved this story — she shared it with her co-workers,” Massey said. “It doesn’t do me any good in a notebook in my closet. I have a lot to share.”

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WIDOWER'S STORY SYMBOLIZES HOPE AND LIFE AFTER DEATH

‘Now You Know!’
“Dream World” as seen by William “Sunshine” Tater

I feel I’ve been a good man throughout my life, not being perfect as none of us are, but a good man in general. I’ve always smiled and attempted to help other with their burdens best I could. But after 87 years of living on this earth I knew my path was coming to an end! But does it end ...?

Will had been ill for a week or so now, confined to bed, unable to care for himself any longer. Will was fully aware of the situation and knew the consequences, and had said his good-byes and left his last requests. He had been especially tired the last day or two and had been dozing, in and out, between dozes he would hear family and friends praying for his gentle passing in the night.

“I awoke confined in some sort of pod the best I could figure; as my head began to clear from my nap I began to notice differences in me and a overwhelming joyful feeling of youth-like vitality. I couldn’t remember feeling this good, I felt like running and jumping and doing cartwheels! But the adventure was just the beginning! First I had to figure out how to get out of this pod of sort, I found myself in. I began to look around and I could see that during my nap significant changes had come over me which I could not explain! My arms had become long straw-like appendages with two prong “ice tong” replicas for hands.

That realization alone should have sent me into instant shock; instead I felt an unbelievable feeling of calm and well-being! A rejuvenated feeling, I felt like a 6 year-old with a heightened level of curiosity and above all. There was this compelling force and a driving desire to fly! Could it be? I rubbed my eyes, which seemed to have cleared dramatically from the best I could remember! I could actually make things out even in the darkness of the pod. I noticed a small knife-like appendage on my new hand, which I raised up toward the pod to see if I could open this thing up and give me a little breathing room.

As my appendage made contact with the pod it broke right through, funneling bright light through the hole. I slid my hand down the pod splitting it wide open revealing the other side! I covered my eyes until they began to adjust to the light! It was a light like no other, a warm basking glow that covered everything in an incredible, invigorating sense of enlightenment and understanding. I was taking in the sights around me and began to realize I was no longer of the world as I had known it!

I clumsily stepped from the pod and began admiring the indescribable beauty that surrounded me. The smell of lilacs and honeysuckle wafted across my nostrils, then there! A touch of jasmine and could it be? Magnolia blossoms! Man this must be heaven, I thought. I was having this overbearing feeling to “stretch” that I’d never had before. So I obliged the feeling, stretching as far as possible standing up on my toes and noticed a peculiar light airy feeling was coming from my back with a strange sensation to flap I’d never felt before.

I turned my head to look back over my shoulder that was no longer there! I beheld a wondrous breathtaking sight! I had wings! And not just any wings! It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. But that was just the beginning of things I had never seen. My wings were brilliant sky blue with gold inlay on the edges, dotted here and there with bright ruby spots. As I obliged the strange sensation, my wings began to flare and unfold to their fullest glory. Not believing my eye or any other of my incredibly heightened senses, I began to gaze at the incredible sights that abounded around me.

My “pod” had been beneath a huge, billowing, lemon-fresh, fragrant magnolia blossom. From the branch where I stood fanning my wings, I could see an awesome array of all the finest aromatic blooming flowers in a quaint arrangement. Growing where the blooms opened upon passing by, with emitting a splendid aroma more pleasing than the one preceding it. There were the jasmine and lilacs I’d smelt on emergence into this dream world. There were, all blooming with sweet fragrance, fruit trees of every variety surrounded by multicolored rose bushes whose blooms varied from blushing red to sunshine yellow. It was everything I had dreamed of and more. I’d always kept the faith in my mind and heart from childhood. I’d always kept the dream to ... fly! fly! ... In my wildest dreams and believe me I’ve had many! I never imagined any would become reality, but here I was! I didn’t know how or why. But here I was standing on a magnolia branch looking across what had to be heaven. Sporting a set of my own personal wings, which I had begun to test with soft gentle flaps, feeling the upward thrust build as the strength of e flapping increased. My feet would gently lift into the air, as a strong young love-like giddiness blushed over me. The strength of the flapping increased to the point where I had left all realms of reality far behind! I was flying! Really flying! I fly high and dove and would open my wings to catch the air, squealing with delight, that I could only hear. I would somersault and flutter, having undeniable delight in the antics my new wings provided. It was an incredulous euphoric sensation with the adrenaline rushes, and soft whiff of flowers and the never-ending warmth and pleasure emitted by the light that’s always present beyond all worldly knowledge. I soared! And soared! High with the clouds, over mountains and rivers with no limitations, wherever the breeze carried me. Then I came to the realization that I wasn’t alone. I began to see other brightly-colored butterflies, all colors of the rainbow and more, some never -before-seen colors. All in their utopia, joyfully enjoying the new-found magical freedom their wings allowed. I rejoiced in the blessing of being allowed to enter their world. I soon began to realize that they were all friends and family that had crossed over before me, all in a state of peace, harmony and total bliss that had overcome me as well! So now you know! When you see a butterfly you’ll realize the wondrous glory you are beholding! Acknowledge our presence, say hi! Thanks for dropping by! It could be someone you knew. Keep dreaming and loving and above all, be good to one another! Until your day comes, I’ll fly away and hopefully see you on the other side some day!
— William “Sunshine” Tater (Jeffrey P. Massey)

Editor’s note: Jeff Massey of Rosharon wrote this story in 1991. As he explains in his open letter on this page, he’s using its inspirational message both to honor the memory of his late wife, Alicia Garcia-Massey, and to benefit hospice care. November is National Hospice Month.

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AN OPEN LETTER
To whom it may concern:
Much love to all. I’m attempting with my best effort to share my dreams, mind and heart to each. A ray of hope or a gentle caring touch means so much to an individual as myself that NO ONE, I mean no one, can understand! So quit trying! Just be there if needed. Show and tell the love or loves in your life daily what they mean to you! Please! It may be your last! Show compassion and empathy for the souls passing from this world to the next, understanding you soon will follow. Show care and love as you would desire and possible, some caring soul will provide you the same. When the time comes, show respect and provide comfort and unselfishly let each fly to their reward. Respect what you can’t change! I wish to share my words, thoughts, heart and soul with all souls through each difficult journey!

I’m sharing these words in Memory of My Beloved Wife Alicia Garcia-Massey. If you feel the need or desire to contribute or donate to the hospice of your choice, please feel free to do so in the name of Alicia Garcia-Massey. Consider making a down payment for your own passing!
With much love, God Bless You All and Happy Flying!
— William “Sunshine” Tater and Jeff Massey

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IF YOU WANT TO HELP
November is National Hospice Month. Those who would like to aid the work of hospices in honoring the memory of Jeff Massey’s wife, Alicia Garcia-Massey, can make donations to Helping Hands and Hearts Hospice, 412 Plantation Drive, Lake Jackson, TX 77566; nationally at 1700 Diagonal Road Suite 625, Alexandria, VA 22314; or the hospice of their choice.

 

Helping Hands & Hearts Hospice

The Helping Hands and Hearts Hospice and Thrift Shop is located at 412 Plantation Drive in Lake Jackson.

 

Brazosport College and Helping Hands and Hearts Hospice of Lake Jackson are co-sponsoring the Hospice Foundation of America’s 12th annual teleconference on “Living with Grief: Ethical Issues at the End of Life.”

This nationally recognized satellite video teleconference grows in popularity each year.

This year’s topic will focus on ethical dilemmas at the end of life and will be broadcast from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on April 20 at Brazosport College in Room K-101.

It is one of the largest professional development programs in the nation and will be moderated by Cokie Roberts, ABC News political commentator and National Public Radio senior news analyst.

The panel consists of nationally recognized experts on social perspectives of medical ethics and explores how cultural differences may influence ethical choices.

Intended for anyone involved in caregiving or dealing with end-of-life issues, this program will offer constructive advice to those who are facing the difficult circumstances that surround caring for someone who is dying.

The program is offered at no cost to viewers and participants. It will help frontline workers and others. All hospice and healthcare workers are invited to the conference.

John Ray, dean of information and community resources at Brazosport College, and Lisa Baker, R.N., healthcare program coordinator, will represent the college in the joint effort.

Administrator Sherwyn Moore will represent Helping Hands and Hearts Hospice, which is at 412 Plantation Drive in Lake Jackson.

For registration information, call Brazosport College at (979) 230-3600 or Helping Hands and Hearts Hospice at (979) 297-3775.
Sam Houston Race Park
Weekly Notes
Tuesday, August 24, 2005


Call (281) 807-8760 for further information!
Photos by Coady Photography

Thoroughbred Trainer Vance Vineyard Passed Away on August 17

Sam Houston Race Park thoroughbred trainer Vance Vineyard lost his battle with cancer on August 17, 2005. Vineyard, 41, was well known in the Texas racing circuit and won 154 races at Sam Houston Race Park, Retama Park and Lone Star Park from 1995-2005.

Funeral services were held for the native Texan on Friday, August 19. The family has requested that donations in Vineyard’s name be made to Helping Hands and Hearts Hospice, 412 Plantation Drive, Lake Jackson, Texas, 77566.