Sharon Cary, 62
Victor resident helps raise about $1 million for Serenity House
By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Q: What happened in life that made you such a fearless advocate for end-of-life programs?
A: My family went through a lot when my mother passed away in 2001. It was very difficult for all of us. We wanted the best for her. When your family member is sick, you can only take so much time away to care for them. We didn’t have something like Serenity House. I kept thinking there has to be a better way to leave this world than the way my mother left. There has to be something that makes a family able to deal with this so much better. Then I heard about Serenity House.
Q: What drew you to Serenity House?
A: It was an organization that you could tell had respect and support for terminally-ill people seven days a week. They wanted to provide a warm environment for not only the residents, but the families that cared for them. They took care of the whole person both their physical and emotional needs. They supported the family through the bereavement process. I liked the fact that it was a 24-hour care facility that was free of charge to the family. They want people to have dignity every step of the way and that is so important for anyone let alone someone who is in the process of dying.
Q: How did you first get involved?
A: I saw a little advertisement that they were having a meeting in the library. I went and I had just planned to sit in the back, nice and quiet, to learn as much information as possible. I was timid because this was something just so new to me. Soon, it was something that I wanted to get involved in. I felt comfortable helping families and the person who was dying.
Q: How did your role grow within the organization?
A: At first, I used to work Wednesdays helping the residents feel truly cared for in their last days. This has given so many families peace of mind. I have a strong commitment to keeping Serenity House’s doors open. I started getting involved in gala fundraising every year. I understood with this being a free-of-charge facility to residents that the financial needs of the Serenity House was important to the stability of the organization. This is a caring, loving home for residents, but nothing can be done if our financial house is not in order. I also have a commitment to serving the backbone of the operation, which are the volunteers.
Q: What is the hardest part of dealing with end of life?
A: There are so many different aspects that make it difficult. First on all sides, nobody wants to talk about death. Everyone is happy when a baby is born. But end of life conversations are not easy. It’s not something we give much thought about and it isn’t something we want to give more thought to. Yet, when you hit that road, it is something you have to confront. The advice I would give people is that they have to confront the situation no matter how difficult it is to talk about. It is a horrible thing to deal with, but dying is a part of life that we all have to tackle eventually, and we can’t just delay talking about because it is difficult. We have to put something in place to make the situation better for people at the end of their lives and for the families who have to deal with the incredible loss.
Q: What do you enjoy about living in Victor?
A: I grew up in a small community called Big Flats in the Southern Tier. Being raised in a small town, it was just in our nature to take care of people. I remember when someone in the neighborhood lost their jobs, you would wait until the sun went down and just drop a bag of groceries on their doorstep. That way they wouldn’t know where it was coming from so they didn’t have to be embarrassed. We just watched out for each other in good or bad times. I get that same sense in Victor. Even though it has grown substantially and is no longer a small town, you still get the neighborhood feeling.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I like spending time with friends and family. I have one grandchild who is 2 years old and we have so much fun together. I enjoy gardening and doing yoga to stay relaxed. I am all about putting together wonderful memories either by doing activities or spending time with the people I love.