Lawrence, Mass. – As Marlene Cerulli’s long battle with breast cancer neared its end last summer, her family turned to Merrimack Valley Hospice and its partnership with York Hospital Hospice to keep the longtime Melrose resident comfortable while surrounded by family in her favorite place: her beach house at York, Maine.
“Seeing a loved one suffering is one of the hardest things to endure,” said her daughter, Marlena Fitts. “Merrimack Valley Hospice provided the medical equipment, knowledge, care and – most of all – patience and kindness that made such an awful experience as peaceful and humane as it could be.”
“I am who I am today because of my mother’s love and care, and Merrimack Valley Hospice helped us provide that love and critical care for our mom at home when her needs extended beyond our ability,” added Cerulli’s older daughter, Rina Cerulli of Lowell. “We are so grateful, and we would not have wanted her final days to have been any other way.”
To give back to Merrimack Valley Hospice while honoring the one-year anniversary of Cerulli’s death at age 81 on August 22, 2020, Fitts organized a 5K charity walk in her hometown of North Reading. The event, which took place on Saturday, October 2, has raised $3,365 to date from 41 donors via a GoFundMe campaign at https://gofund.me/63f7bf7e.
Donations will be accepted toward a $7,500 goal through the end of the year, with all funds benefiting subsidized patient care, durable medical goods, art supplies for a children’s bereavement group and other free bereavement services open to any community member who is grieving a loss – regardless of whether their loved one received care from Merrimack Valley Hospice.
Fitts was inspired to organize the fundraising walk to gain closure and do something positive after all the stresses of the past year, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused societal economic and social upheaval on top of her family’s grief over losing their matriarch. She said their gratitude at fulfilling Cerulli’s wish to remain pain-free in familiar surroundings, rather than hospitalized, made Merrimack Valley Hospice the family’s “clear” charity of choice.
“My mom had a wonderful life until the end,” Fitts said. “I wanted to give back in some way to all the people that helped that happen.”
The fundraising walk kicked off at 11 a.m., with approximately 30 supporters walking a 5K loop that began and ended at Fitts’s home. The event concluded with a short speech about Cerulli and the benefits of hospice, followed by a celebration with music and food that lasted late into the evening.
“It was such a great day. My mom always knew how to have a good time and enjoy life, so it’s what she would have wanted,” Fitts said. “I’m so grateful and humbled by the generosity in her honor, especially from friends and extended family members I haven’t seen in years. Everyone joined together to rise above what has been happening in the world and move forward in such a positive way. I want to thank them all for contributing to this cause that means so much to me and my family.”
Cerulli is lovingly remembered as an incredibly strong woman who ensured that her four children were college-educated and always had everything they needed. That included supplementing the income of her husband, postal worker Victor Cerulli Sr., by driving a nursery school bus and building a real estate corporation.
A talented cook who gladly opened her heart and home to extended family and friends, Cerulli created many fond memories involving travel adventures, game nights, summers at Short Sands Beach in York and Christmas holidays spent caroling, baking sugar cookies and warming up with hot cocoa.
“To paraphrase one of her favorite musicians, Frank Sinatra, my mom did it her way,” Fitts said. “Her presence will remain in our hearts and minds forever.”
To learn more about the hospice, palliative and comfort care services available through Merrimack Valley Hospice, call 978-552-4510 or visit www.MerrimackValleyHospice.org.
About Merrimack Valley Hospice
Merrimack Valley Hospice is a not-for-profit agency providing comfort care and supportive services to patients nearing the end of life and bereavement services to their loved ones. Together with Home Health VNA, the agencies provide a full continuum of home health and hospice care in more than 110 communities throughout northeastern Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and southern Maine as York Hospital Hospice.