Luz Bove lost her husband, Vincent, to cancer just two months ago. The 54-year-old mother of two wasn’t up to putting up a Christmas tree this year.
Her children pushed her and she granted their Christmas wish while trying to make this first holiday season without their dad as normal as possible. She told them the presents would be light this year, because of the circumstances.
Little did she know that someone would make their holiday brighter.
Each year, Northwell Health celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. At the most recent celebration, a relationship was forged that will last much longer than a month. It will last a lifetime.
Bove has worked for Northwell Health in Manhasset for over a decade, having started as a rehabilitation aide in 2012. She is now a program manager. She was involved with the Hispanic Heritage event while Vincent was in hospice care at home.
Vincent, 54, a longtime cameraman for NBC Sports, was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage 4 salivary gland cancer in January 2019. He died on Oct. 23, not too long after the event.
“One of our fellow leaders for the event wanted to just acknowledge my presence, and appreciate my presence there,” Bove said, “because of the fact that I was currently managing this other whole side of my life at home with my husband, caring for him at home on hospice while also working.”
Chris O’Brien is the chief financial officer for Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital Northwell Health. He spoke at the celebration, just before Bove spoke to the crowd. She spoke about her husband and what her family has been going through. O’Brien, after hearing her story, wanted to help.
“Specifically with people in my company, whenever I hear somebody is going through that, I really do try to reach out to the family and lend my support,” he said. “My wife, early on in our marriage, was diagnosed with cancer as well. So I understand the struggle and what it’s like, as a family member, to see somebody that you love going through such a thing.”
After the event, O’Brien and Bove met and talked for about an hour, just learning about each other. What hit home for him, was that Bove has two children, a 12-year-old son, Vincent Jr., and an eight-year-old daughter, Ava.
O’Brien has a daughter the same age, with similar interests. So, wanting to help out as much as he could, he made a long-term goal and short-term goal. The long-term goal is to be the first donation for a foundation Bove is starting in her husband’s name and the short-term goal of gifts for the entire family were presented a few days before Christmas.
At LIJ Valley Stream, employees donate money to help families in need as part of their annual giving tree, where Northwell employees donate money for Christmas gifts for people and families in need. Bove and her family were number seven on the tree, her husband’s lucky number. About $2,000 was raised for them, $1,000 on the first day.
Bove walked through numerous hallways at the hospital Dec. 23 before arriving at the meeting room, where she was surprised with gifts, including a mini basketball hoop, coloring books, games, an easy bake oven and tickets to both a Ranger game and Disney on Ice, among many others. It was exactly two months after Vincent passed away.
“It’s been an outpouring and a collective effort from a lot of people that heard this story and immediately wanted to do something for this family,” O’Brien said of his co-workers. “She’s just such an infectious person and just for somebody to have such an optimistic view on life at a time when pretty much everything is pointing towards her not having that, I thought again was just so incredible. And I think that’s going to serve her kids very well.”
It’s amazing how people who were once perfect strangers, have had such a profound impact on each other.
“Sometimes you never understand why people cross your path,” Bove said to O’Brien. “I said to myself, with everything we’ve gone through as a health system and just healthcare and we just went through a global pandemic, it almost restored your faith in people and humanity because, I barely know you. We just met and I can tell immediately the kind of person your character right away just from that initial meeting.”
Along with the gifts, the short-term goal, O’Brien addressed the room, and Bove, saying that the long-term goal was also going to be fulfilled. He had money remaining from the giving tree and rather than buying more gifts, he said the money is going to become the first donation for her future foundation.