A special and tender ending: Saying goodbye to ‘Dr. Joe’

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A special and tender ending: Saying farewell to 'Dr. Joe'. Joseph Morris, MD, welcomed Jane Gray Hale, his first of eightgrandchildren, to the family in 2014.

Joseph Morris, MD, welcomed Jane Gray Hale, his first of eight grandchildren, to the family in 2014.

There’s no telling how many thousands of babies beloved Anne Arundel County obstetrician E. Joseph “Dr. Joe” Morris, MD, brought into the world. What is certain, his family believes, is every newborn felt his tender loving care in the first moments of life. It’s only fitting, then, that Dr. Morris’s farewell was as soft and gentle as he was, his daughter Bridget Stockdale said.

“He gave so generously to others,” she said. “It was a beautiful gift for him to have a peaceful transition while in hospice.”

That journey to hospice began nearly two years earlier.

At first, his wife Jeanne Morris said, the stomach discomfort was a nuisance. When the diagnosis came back cancer, the family turned to Chesapeake Supportive Care to navigate his medical care. “Everyone needs to know about supportive care,” Morris, a nurse, said. “It’s not about giving up. It’s about support.” She points to the multidisciplinary team as a “thing of beauty.”

About a year later, there was nothing more to do—it was time for hospice. “They told me to take off my nursing cap, and remember my role as wife,” she said. “They took on Joe’s care so we could be together as family as long as possible.”

A story about Dr. Morris wouldn’t be complete without mention of his children and grandchildren who surrounded him at every stage. When the severity of his symptoms required care at the Rebecca Fortney Inpatient Care Center in Pasadena, his five children, their spouses, and grandchildren came right over. The family was grateful for the warm welcome, no matter how many people visited.

“Those wonderful people made us not only feel comfortable, but embraced us with love,” daughter Colleen Freestate said.

Added her brother Joseph Morris: “They were an incredibly thoughtful, kind staff.”

It was a beautiful gift for him to have a peaceful transition while in hospice.

His family especially appreciated walking in the Michael Stanley Children’s Garden. They remember it as a place where the family found comfort and peace.

As days passed, it was clear Dr. Morris was nearing the end. “They were so good to him,” his wife said, thinking of daily kindnesses. “One CNA went to great lengths to personalize his care. She gave him a shampoo, shave, and massage.” It was, she said, unlike anything she imagined at the time.

The family credits nurses, certified nursing assistants, doctors, social workers, and chaplains for easing the way from arranging for a priest to perform last rites to discussing what happens next.

“People showed compassion and great respect to Dad in his most vulnerable state,” daughter Meg Hale said. “And they did the same for us.”

Months after his September passing, Dr. Morris’s family cherishes stories, memories, and photographs of a life well-lived for his loved ones, for his patients, for his community. The ending, while far too soon, was as special and tender as he was.

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