Glenys has been providing care to others almost her entire life. Born in Wales during World War II, she spent most of her childhood years with her grandmother (whose husband returned from the trenches of World War I with what was then referred to as shell shock—the debilitating psychological condition that’s known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). “My grandmother used to take me around to care for people in England and Wales [where hospices, coincidentally, originated],” she recalls, whose father was away in the army at that time, while her mother had had to go to work in a parachute factory. “My grandmother didn’t get paid for it. She just did it.”
After meeting and marrying an American and then getting divorced, she immigrated to America in the mid-60s with her three young sons, and worked in Detroit’s first Head Start program. She soon relocated to California—first to Berkeley, where she tried to put her University of Wales teaching degree to use, then to the mountains of Santa Cruz for nine years (where she taught and waitressed), and then to Los Angeles.
Aside from those trips with her grandmother, the other formative period in her life, probably the most formative, was the incapacitation and eventual death of her son Scott, for whom Scott’s House is named.
As she described it in her 2005 memoir, Hold My Hand, in 1987 Scott, who’d recently moved to Australia to attend college, suffered a traumatic head injury (after being severely beaten by burglars who’d broken into his home). Carl flew down to Australia immediately, and after Scott emerged from a three-month-long coma, she organized volunteers to care for him—because he was not covered by the Australian medical system.
In 1989, only 25, Scott died. (She has two remaining sons, one a marine biologist in Denmark and the other a woodworker in Pecos. And she has many grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.)
She then relocated to Santa Fe the next year, where “a friend who’d known me since we were kids, had just had a house built on Tano Road.”
That’s about when she got her first official hospice job, too—working with people with AIDS at Trevor Hawkins’ Southwest Care Center. Which is where the seeds for Coming Home Connection, and Scott’s House, first sprouted.
“I saw this lack of care for young AIDS patients who had no money and I remember thinking, what about people who can’t afford care? Medicare pays for hospice but not for home care.”
So she founded Coming Home Connection.
And now it’s just the opposite: it’s not younger people needing end-of-life care, it’s the burgeoning numbers of elderly (the over-65 population in Santa Fe is expected to grow by 64% by 2030). “People are getting older and living longer, especially here in Santa Fe,” observes Carl, “but many of them are disabled in some capacity and need care. And many of them just don’t know where to even start.”
“Most of them have to go to a nursing home,” she adds. “Which is when I saw the need for a hospice home.”
Her secret—one she hopes others around the country will pick up on—was in going to the nursing school at the Santa Fe Community College, “and taking as many of their nursing students as would join,” says Carl. “They learn a lot from one-on-one contact with patients, with our residents.”
It’s challenging work, no doubt. But it’s also rewarding—almost indescribably so.
“When people are dying,” Carl tries to explain, “a lot of times people become open. When passing, something strange comes around you. But then you get to your car and it’s gone. It’s like an opening. It goes as quickly as it comes.”
As for her new venture’s namesake. “He’s always there in the little things,” smiles Carl. “And he’d laugh his head off at me right now.”
Maybe. Or just as likely he’d be helping out however he could as well. “I threw myself into this work because,” says Glenys, “if I hadn’t moved, I’d still be sipping tea, looking at the fire.”