How Aurora Zilber Family Hospice becomes a joyous part of life

Nancy Sobczak was a skier. And a seamstress. A gourmet. She was a computer and software expert. With a PhD in electrical engineering from Marquette University, she conducted essential research at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She was a scientist. “She would want us to know she was a farm girl too,” added Nancy’s husband, Robert Sobczak. “And she cared deeply about her family.”

After meeting at Marquette University, they were inseparable for 39 years. “It went by so wonderfully, so fast,” Robert reflected. "Nancy was incredible in innumerable ways."

Then, in 2008, Nancy Sobczak was diagnosed with a devastating variant of breast cancer that eventually spread to her brain and spine. "Let's put 'fighter' on that long list," Robert added. Nancy tried a number of treatments, many as aggressive as her cancer. They were physically damaging. She did everything she could. In 2011, Nancy looked at Robert and told him she was done. 

It was with heavy hearts, but fair spirits, that Nancy and Robert began their search for  the right hospice environment. Aurora Zilber Family Hospice was where Nancy spent her last three days in peace and comfort, with Robert by her side. 

Finding peace for himself

Robert found Aurora Zilber Family Hospice to be a place filled with life and love. He didn’t expect, however, that Aurora Zilber would become an integral part of his life. “I was a little surprised when I was asked to join a bereavement group,” Robert said. 

The group met once a week with a facilitator who helped them with the grieving process, which even with five recognizable stages isn’t linear or clear-cut. “I found that I was emotionally all over the place, with a lot of remorse,” Robert recalled. “I wondered, 'Why did I make it?' Some days, the final phase felt like the beginning. But being able to talk and listen to others really helped me.”

The hospice stays in touch with families for a full 13 months. “Reaching out to families for that period of time is important because it gets them past that one year anniversary,” said Jocelynn Hosea-Davis, the hospice’s bereavement coordinator.

To this day, Robert keeps in touch with his bereavement group. They meet about once a month, but they are there for each other whenever the need arises. “Your grief can come back at unexpected times, and in interesting ways,” said Robert. “When that happens, we have each other. We treasure each other.”

Giving back

If you were to meet Robert, he'd be the first to tell you that Aurora Zilber's bereavement program made an enormous difference in his life. "The hospice takes incredible care of your loved ones," he said, "but it also cares deeply for those who are still here. Aurora Zilber makes all the difference."

That's why he created the Dr. Nancy Laning Sobczak Fund, which supports the bereavement programs, services and equipment for family members of hospice patients and staff at Aurora Zilber Family Hospice and Home Hospice Services.

“I look forward to giving back in any way I can,” Robert concluded. "Nancy and I spent two-thirds of our lives together. I've only spent the last 10 percent of my life without her. Aurora Zilber has helped me see that we're threads in a larger tapestry. There's much to be continued."

To find out how you can support the compassionate care at Aurora Zilber Family Hospice and Home Hospice Services, email Judi Strout or call 414-615-5935.

Robert and Nancy Sobczak

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