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Heart of Mary House helps dying patients learn life lessons

By Marius Payton

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    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — It’s a place where an otherwise complex life is simplified. Heart of Mary House in Nashville walks hand in hand with terminally ill patients in their final days. It’s a loving and learning process for all involved. But as WSMV4′s Marius Payton found, while some prepared to die, they’ve also finally found what was missing in their lives.

A transition starts when patients enter through the blue door.

“You can come here, and everything makes sense,” said Kim Derrick, the executive director and co-founder of Heart of Mary House. “There is no confusion. There is nothing contradicting itself. It’s just as pure as it seems from the outside.”

Patients, like Butch Potts, know why he’s here and what’s next.

“I’m having total heart failure. That’s going on,” Potts said. “I have 8 percent of my heart left now. I know I’m dying, but I’m at peace with it.”

Heart of Mary House is a much-needed place for people who are at the end of their lives and have nowhere else to go. Whether it’s one week or three months, the care these patients get is all the same. So, what’s the cost?

“Completely free,” Derrick said.

Heart of Mary House uses donations to pay for the home care and needs of all its patients. No federal or state funding is used. No insurance either.

The House runs on the kindness of people’s hearts. The majority of volunteer staff teaches lessons about forgiveness, gratitude, and unconditional love — not with books, but with actions. A game of checkers or songs by the piano often brings a smile and sometimes tears of joy to some who are facing mortality and need a pick me up.

You can see in Butch’s eyes he has lived a rough life. After spending nearly three lonely decades in prison, he’s now dying but not alone.

“I’ve grown to love a lot of these people, and of course, they have grown to love me,” Potts said.

Abel Novoa also had it rough after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. His sister-in-law Jessica Novoa began volunteering at Heart of Mary House after witnessing how Abel was treated during his final days there. She believes Abel entered through the blue doors alone and left with a family.

“Family and friends and many people,” Novoa said.

Now as an employee of Heart of Mary House, Jessica aims to repay the love shown to Abel and her family when they needed it most.

“This place changed my life. This place changed my family’s lives. It’s just a blessing for me and my family,” she said.

“It’s just the gift of humanity, and that’s what we see here day in and day out,” Derrick added.

To date, Heart of Mary House has comforted 32 terminally ill people, making sure they are taken care of, loved, and most importantly not alone.

Derrick also told Payton how much of a blessing it is for her to witness what she calls the miracles of reconciliation, forgiveness and love that she sees every single day. If you would like to donate your time or money to Heart of Mary House, you can do so on its website.

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