Catherine Swieter had a few key things on her wish list. She wanted fresh flowers once a month, and she wanted to be able to have a date night with her husband, Eric.
Catherine Swieter, 65, has Parkinson’s disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and failing kidneys, which caused her several months ago to seek hospice care.
The Swieters are part of the Statesman’s Season for Caring, which features the stories of 12 families and helps hundreds of others through local nonprofit organizations. The Swieters were nominated by Hospice Austin.
Readers responded to their wish for a date night and started sending gift cards for restaurants and movie theaters to Hospice Austin.
On Tuesday night, the Swieters went to the Alamo Drafthouse and saw “Frozen 2.”
“It was lots of fun,” Catherine Swieter says. She had a hamburger, and Eric had a grilled cheese sandwich. “We laughed; we cried. It was really good,” she says.
Last Wednesday, flowers delivered by Garrett Smith, the manager at Austin Flower Company, arrived at their apartment.
The arrangement of coral charm peonies, king protea, snapdragons and lilies was beautiful, Catherine Swieter says, especially the king protea, which Swieter called “amazing.”
Swieter had asked for flowers once a month for six months, ‘“but I’m not going to live that long,” she says.
Austin Flower Company offered to donate flowers every other week for six months. The idea to fulfill Swieter’s wish came after owner Thomas Gay read Swieter’s story.
Smith says that Austin Flower Company doesn’t really advertise; instead, they like to give donations. The employees will take turns putting together the arrangements and delivering them.
“We’re just thankful for the opportunity,” Smith said. “Any kind of service work, you feel better, and they feel better. You make their experience better. Everybody wins.”
Swieter says of the flowers: “I was amazed. It made me feel good all over.”
Austin Hospice volunteer Jennifer Vargas, who has been matched with Swieter, shared the Swieters’ story with her friends on Facebook. “I’m not someone that asks for something that often,” Vargas says.
Her friends responded with donations of gift cards, a dresser, a blender, a vacuum and toiletries. Other folks have donated a couch, lift recliner, a dining table and a china cabinet. ABC Longhorn Moving donated its services to move the furniture into their apartment.
“It gives me a new outlook on people, that people are so kind in this world of ours,” Swieter says. “You think there is no kindness left, but being in this program, I've seen a lot of kindness. It makes my thought about people: They're real; their kindness is unreal.”
Vargas has met with Swieter several times since she was matched with her. “We talk,” Vargas says. “Catherine tells me about her life. We've been writing letters to her family and friends to say her goodbyes.”
Vargas hand writes the letters as Swieter dictates. “It’s been quite an experience,” Vargas says.
Vargas says that Swieter is always appreciative: “Catherine is in a lot of pain, but she somehow finds a way to be appreciative and grateful to all the things she's gotten.”
Vargas decided to volunteer with Hospice Austin, she says, because her parents benefited from hospice, and she was “touched by the level of care they gave.”
“Many of us are pretty bad at establishing and holding to our priorities and what our priorities should be,” Vargas says. This, she says, is an opportunity to be around “people who would have a lot more clarity around that.”
The Swieters still have a few things on their wish list. Catherine Swieter really wants a food processor and an area rug for her living room. On the list as well are twin bed sheets, Capital Metro Access passes, piano music books, a body pillow and fresh paint for their apartment.
To find out more about the Swieters or help fulfill one of their wishes, contact Hospice Austin at 512-342-4700, hospiceaustin.org.