A Vietnam veteran had his dying wishes granted in August thanks to the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin.
Connie Willhite, a Soperton native and U.S. Navy veteran who was being cared for at the Hospice Care Unit at the VA Medical Center, asked for only two things before he died: he wanted to be baptized and he wanted to catch one more fish.
First, VA chaplain Sam Scaggs helped Willhite with his baptism. He requested the ceremony so that he could be prepared to “crossover.” His family joined to witness the event.
Greg Senters, a hospice social worker, then helped Willhite plan his last fishing trip. Senters bought the bait and brought him the gear.
Senters, along with nursing staff, took Willhite to Lake Leisure, a pond located behind the VA Medical Center.
Senters said they weren’t sure if Willhite would be able to catch any fish that day, but he ended up with four in total.
“It’s called fishing, it’s not called catching. So I told him we may not catch anything, but he said it doesn’t matter,” Senters said. “He said just being out there doing this was just as good.”
He said that in those moments, Willhite wasn’t a cancer patient; he was just living life. He said he saw his face light up when he reeled in the first fish.
“All of a sudden, the cancer and everything else went away, and what you see is that precious few moments of someone really enjoying life,” Senters said.
Senters said that hospice is about living, not about death, and that people that are dying can teach others a lot about life.
Lisa Kittrill, Willhite’s cousin, said that Willhite was a joy to their family and that they owe him so much.
“He talked and talked when I came in that day, and said he went fishing and got baptized, and for that I’m so glad,” Kittrill said.
She said she visited him every day in hospice and that she is extremely grateful to the Dublin VA for taking care of Willhite and helping their entire family deal with the loss.
Willhite died peacefully on August 29th.