Children can, and do, grieve and children process their grief through play. Two concepts that my training has taught me and two concepts that I have witnessed firsthand countless times as a child life specialist. Yet, somehow, these two concepts became more real to me than they ever were as I sat with a five-year-old sibling of a three-year-old hospice patient in her backyard, providing support as she learned that a frog she caught and had been caring for had died.
She talked about playing with him the day before, how he seemed to really enjoy the dirt, and how sad she was that he had died. She cried as she talked about how much she would miss him; kissed him as she talked about saying goodbye. We picked flowers, prepared his resting place, and said what we would miss about him. Throughout the interaction, she discussed the parallels between her brother’s anticipated death and the death of her frog. She cried for both as she attempted to reconcile what was to come.
I am so blessed to be working here at JourneyCare. My first two months have been filled with one amazing day after another. I am humbled by the heartfelt work I have seen firsthand and I am so proud and thankful for everything I have experienced thus far.
I joined JourneyCare in December, 2015, as Senior Director of Service Excellence. In this role, I’m collaborating with virtually every aspect of the organization; with a focus on developing a culture filled with programs and values and a walk-of-life that prepares us to deliver service excellence filled with magic moments.
We all have unique journeys to share that somehow guide us to where we are today.
Many people know the beauty of the words drawn from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3. This ancient poem (in the 1611 King James Bible) begins, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” And then, the second verse continues, “A time to be born, and a time to die.”
The writer is correct, every one born will, someday, die. That we will die is not unexpected, but it is a moment not easily faced. It is not a topic we lift up in polite company. We sense its finality in our souls and are often ill-equipped to face it. Death can feel like the ultimate thief, the ultimate enemy and so we convince ourselves that it is far away and refuse to acknowledge it is a reality for all who ever draw breath.
The first patient to be admitted to the Marshak Family Hospice Pavilion was a 64 year old married female who was admitted to IPU at Lieberman with metastatic melanoma. She was admitted for management of abdominal pain and for end of life care. She was the first patient transferred from the IPU at Lieberman to the Hospice Pavilion. Her name was Utaiwon Maleegrai and she was my mother.
My mother endured many ups and downs with her physical ailments the last few years of her life. But mentally, she never gave up―nor did my father. He was her rock.
Upon mom's last admittance to the hospital, after being in there for a few days in a semi-comatose state, she greeted me with a cheerful hello as I entered her room. I recall explaining to her that she was being transferred to hospice. She didn't understand why.
Many times when I see families that have come togethter to care for their loved one, they do so out of love. Also significant, is that the loved one that they are caring for feels like they are a "burden" and don't want their family to feel put out. I think one of the most inportant parts of my job is to help my patients understand that their family wouldn't want it any other way!
I am so incredibly blessed to have had all four of my grandparents in my life for seventeen years. I couldn't imagine losing one of them until my grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
The one thing I remember best about my grandfather is that he could tell stories like he was reading a book. He used such detail and was indescribably passionate about what he did. He was a physician and the number one rule he always followed was to make sure his patients were comfortable and peaceful.
My father was the strongest man I ever knew. A WWII hero, he rarely talked about his plane going down in the Philippines but when I moved him out of his apartment into the first of many nursing homes, I found the NY Times article from 1942 that told about the accident. “Henry G. Jackson is credited with saving the lives of the whole crew,” it said. Next to the article is a picture of him, 18 years old, beaming in his Marine uniform.