A heart for hospice

By Leslie Criss

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Linda Gholston has found sanctuary, and it's a great deal like coming home.

The Pratt community native returned to Lee County in January to become administrator of Sanctuary Hospice House.

Gholston said “so long” to Tupelo in 1994 when she left her post as vice president of patient care at North Mississippi Medical Center to become administrator of Grenada Lake Medical Center.

Four and a half years later, she took on the mantle of administrator of the Blair Batson Children's Hospital and Win Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants in Jackson.

During Gholston's Jackson stay, her friend and former nursing student Nancy Collins began talking to her about Sanctuary House.

Initially, Gholston said she just wasn't sure.

“I'd never dealt with hospice, certainly no inpatient hospice,” she said. “I did a lot of praying and felt God was leading.”

Gholston spoke with a friend in Jackson who worked with Hospice Ministries of Ridgeland.

“I walked into her office and saw these words on a poster: Because care of the body means nothing without first easing the soul. Hospice workers are not hired – they are called'” Gholston said. “Before we finished our conversation, I knew I was being called to work with Nancy and with Sanctuary House.”

The poster now hangs in Sanctuary's temporary offices and will follow Gholston when she and staff members move to their new home on Mississippi Highway 6 west of Tupelo.

A heart for hospice

After spending only moments in Gholston's company, it becomes crystal clear she has a heart for hospice.

She speaks with great enthusiasm and little prodding about the project that's brought her home. But a sincere sense of humility makes Gholston uncomfortable talking about, well, Gholston.

Finally, she lets go of a few facts.

She graduated from Baldwyn High School and Blue Mountain College. While serving as director of recruitment at Blue Mountain, Gholston made the decision to become a nurse – “It's a decision I've never regretted.”

She's 57 and doesn't mind saying so.

She's the daughter of Douglas and Trixie Gholston, who still live in the Pratt community. She's sister to one brother.

A smile looms large when she speaks of her three nephews and a niece – “I'm a doting aunt.”

And she feels she's been given a great gift through the opportunity to work with Sanctuary House.

“To be there for the comfort and care of a dying patient and his or her family, to be a part of that very sacred time – I don't know of any calling higher,” Gholston said. “For the families and patients to honor us in this way is an amazing thing.”

Her hopes for hospice care are high.

“Sanctuary House will not be gloom- and doom-filled,” she said. “This house is going to be about living and preparing people for the transition from this life to the next. I never dreamed I might one day be a part of it.”

Nancy Collins could cite a multitude of reasons for choosing her friend and former nursing instructor as Sanctuary's administrator, but she cuts quickly to the bottom line.

“Linda has caught the vision of the Sanctuary Hospice House,” Collins said. “She possesses the heart of a servant; she does not settle for average; and she allows God to love people through her as they are and as they could be.”

Leslie Criss is the Daily Journal's features and special sections editor. Contact her at 678-1584 or leslie.criss@dournal.com