May 14, 2013 at 12:42 AM

Kindness Matters

By Sarah House

Dear Friends of Sarah House –

In the end, only kindness matters.”   These six simple words are the substance of our life at Sarah House.  Each day we offer care and comfort to men and women of Santa Barbara, all of whom are at the end of their lives and all of whom are poor.  And as we come to their aid during their final weeks, over and over we find that, yes, only kindness matters.  Now we must ask for your kindness, too.  But first we will tell you a story or two.

Katie’s Story:

The story of Katie and the last month of her life, spent in a corner bedroom in Sarah House, is a story of the kindness that matters.  Katie is 19, the youngest of many children.  Her father has died many years before. Her mother and Katie and her brothers and sisters have worked hard to survive. But now Katie is dying, a series of strokes leaving her helpless and her family without hope. Katie lies under a comforter in a bed at Sarah House.  She has been mostly sleeping for thirty days and nights as we help her mother bathe her young body, comb her hair, turn her from side to side. We feed her brothers and sisters big meals in the dining room. We pray the prayers of the Sacrament of the Sick with her family.  These are all acts of kindness and we believe with our whole hearts that they matter greatly.  Then on a Thursday night Katie awakens and one of our Staff summons her Mother to come to her daughter’s side.  Katie looks clearly into her Mother’s eyes for the first time in weeks.  Everyone begins to cry.  In a few minutes she has died in the peaceful way her family had hoped.  “In the end, only kindness matters.”

Joe’s Story:

Joe’s story starts differently but ends the same. Joe is a World War II veteran and a golfer who, over the years, has lost everything, including the affection of this sons and grandsons.  He arrives at Sarah House, bitter and cantankerous.  We work hard to love him though, and you might even say that we love himrelentlessly.  We are kind to him and then we are kinder.  And at last we wear him down.  And because kindness is the very thing Joe needs, pretty soon he begins to return that kindness to everyone else.  Before long, his children come back to see him, bringing his grandchildren with them.  “When I die,” Joe confides to his son during a visit, “When I die, people are going to be devastated.”  And believe it or not, people are devastated: his family, his new friends, us.  Once again, “in the end, only kindness matters.”

Hundreds of men and women have lived here at Sarah House since we began our hospice work: old and young, veterans and activists, intellectuals and just plain folks.  None has had much money and, hence, they have not had many choices.  All, though, have wanted to die in the kindness that matters.  We extended this to them and there were many, many good deaths.

Despite what people often surmise, we do not receive Medicare or any federal funding.  All who move to Sarah House are low-income, most are poor, some have been homeless. Their families are grateful for our care but they are not able to give us big donations.  And so each year we begin again to raise all the necessary money to keep on being kind to people so that, no matter how their earlier lives unfolded, the end of their lives will be good. They will die in kindness.

Now we ask that you join with us so that in our beautiful Santa Barbara community there is kindness offered to all people at the end of their lives.  It is your kindness that will make us able to continue our work.  Your kindness and our kindness together will do exactly what we have set out to do: make certain that the poor among us, when their time comes, might have a good death.  In the end, only kindness matters.

Please click on the donation tab and give.  Remember, we offer a place of love and dignity to each person regardless of their ability to pay.  We can be there for them.  Now we need you to be there for us.

Should you want to come walk through Sarah House, have a cup of coffee, hear a few more stories, please call us and we will invite you over.

Thank you for the friendship and support you have already extended to our work.  We appreciate every single gift.  We appreciate your kindness.


Sarah House

Posted in SHSB News.


California Hospice And Palliative Care Association presented Sarah House with the 2010 Outstanding Program Award. In a press release, CHAPCA described Sarah House as, “A place of sanctuary and warmth for residents, their families and their staff."