Linda Booth said her husband, a physician, loved the philosophy of hospice, of caring for a dying person that allows the patient and their family to enjoy their last months together in an environment that is gentle to all.
“He called [hospice care] a soft landing,” she said.
Dr. Arthur Booth was a general surgeon and a founder of Brookhaven-based Hospice Atlanta Center, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. A gala and fundraiser is set for Oct. 27 to commemorate the founders, who also include Marry Gellerstedt, Warren Jobe and late Eula Carlos.
As a surgeon who treated cancer patients for much of his career, Dr. Booth was intent on bringing hospice services to metro Atlanta in the mid-1980s after working with families in which a parent in each family died from the disease.
The daughter of one family was able to take a leave of absence from work and spend the last six months of her father’s life caring for him.
The daughter of the other family could not take off and had to travel often for her job. She asked Dr. Booth to check in on her mother when she was out of town. One day when he didn’t get an answer at the ill woman’s home, he went to the emergency room of the local hospital. He found the daughter curled up on the bathroom floor.
“These two daughters loved their parents to the same degree,” Linda Booth said. “They deeply wanted to care for their parents.”
Dr. Booth began talking to patients and teamed up with his patient and friend, Eula Carlos, to open a hospice practice.
At first it was hard to convince doctors that they couldn’t always “pull a miracle out of a bag” and cure a terminally ill patient, Booth said.
“But once you got doctors to understand they were not giving up on a patient but helping them in that last phase of life, they opened their billfolds and gave and gave,” to have the hospice center open, she said.
“Some people are only healed after death,” she said.
Many people are unsure of what hospice is exactly. Sandy Springs-based Visiting Nurse Health Services, a nonprofit health care organization of which Hospice Atlanta is an affiliate, states hospice is “a concept of care that emphasizes quality rather than quantity of life.” The care extends to families as well as patients.
Without hospice care, families can sometimes get “caught up” in the care of a dying family member instead of spending the final months sharing memories, holding hands and being with each other, Booth said. Her husband wanted to give families that special time together.
“[Death] is just another phase of life,” she said.
Dr. Booth had two strokes and battled cancer, but still kept “trucking along,” she said. After the couple retired in 2004 to South Carolina, he and another doctor opened a free clinic for underprivileged people.
“He truly believed everyone should leave the world a little better than they found it,” Linda Booth said. “And he definitely did.”
Dr. Booth died June 18 – at the hospice he helped create.
Linda Booth said her husband was a very religious man who looked for signs on what to do. One day he told her that God told him he was “coming home.”
“He said he wanted to collect his soft landing,” she said.
An air ambulance brought him from South Carolina to Hospice Atlanta, to where it all began and to where it would also end.
Hospice Atlanta, located on Park Vista Drive, includes residential care, for those who may not be able to care for someone in their home, where Dr. Booth spent his last days.
He was able to hug a nurse he hired 20 years ago and share memories with the hospital staff he had worked with for so many years.
Family and friends came to visit him and hug, cry and laugh as he was cared for in the facility he helped build.
“We received for a short time the love, comfort and peace you get from being in the center,” Linda Booth said. “He truly closed the circle.”
‘In the Moment— A Celebration of Life’ fall gala
Location: Stave Room at American Spirit Works, 199 Armour Drive, Buckhead
Date: Thursday, Oct. 27
Time: 7-10 p.m.
Honoring: The four founding members of Hospice Atlanta Center: Marry Gellerstedt, Warren Jobe, the late Dr. Arthur Booth and the late Eula Carlos
Tickets are $250 each and sponsorships start at $1,000