JourneyCare volunteer Steve Crews was a lifelong writer and communicator. He worked as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, deputy press secretary with former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, an executive with two international public relations firms, and head of communications with Hallmark Cards and later, with Alberto Culver Corp. He was an Army vet, married and the father of two.
Steve was a much beloved JourneyCare volunteer who was always willing to do anything we asked of him. He was a patient care volunteer, a reception volunteer at two different desks on two different days, sat on our Veterans’ Advisory Council, helped at community health fairs and wrote numerous posts for our JourneyCare blog.
Steve died in November in our care, with friends and family nearby.
Below is the last piece Steve wrote for us, which his family is allowing us to share in his honor.
He is greatly missed.
Like My Uncle Ed
When I die, I want to go like my uncle Ed, a quiet guy with a blue-collar job at a local newspaper and a love of fresh water fishing. He was a man who never got excited. Pleased? Impatient? Sure. He was not without emotion. But excited? Not that I ever saw. Still, sitting in his chair, sipping an Edelweiss beer and reading the paper, he was always in control. If a problem arose, he was the one who solved it.
As a hospice lead volunteer coordinator, I have the privilege of working with amazing people who do amazing things every day. These real life superheroes spend countless hours with our staff, patients and families, making a real difference in the final moments of someone’s life. Their super power is their ability to transform lives through compassionate care.
Caregiving in itself can be difficult. Ones desire to help, nurture and support a loved one at end of life is daunting. Most of the time, caregivers have made a decision to care either by desire, or necessity. In any case, unless they care for themselves, there is little they can do for their loved one.
Chanukah (Dec. 24-Dec. 31) is a holiday rich in Jewish history and traditions. Some refer to it as the Festival of Lights due to the lighting of Menorahs and the miracle relating to the oil. In the time of the Holy Temple, one jar of oil lasted eight days. This is also the reason for why the holiday lasts eight days.
This year, while I enjoy celebrating with family and friends and eating the symbolic foods of the holiday, including potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiyot (fried donuts), I will remember a patient of mine who was a Holocaust survivor.
Several years ago, as part of a corporate walking challenge for hospital employees, I invited a Buddhist monk, Bhante Sujatha, to lead a group in a meditation walk at a beautiful nature preserve labyrinth. The labyrinth is circular in shape with winding paths that draw you back and forth until eventually you reach the center. It is said that the back and forth motion engage both sides of the brain and create a sense of calm, somewhat like rocking a child in a cradle or gliding through space on a swing. Because so many of us were making our way through and we all began at the same time, we regularly needed to move aside, as people passed us on the way back from the center.
A little girl giggles with uncontrollable excitement at seeing Santa walk down the stairs...
A pre-teen boy anxiously awaits as the announcer calls the next Bingo card selection...
And, a toddler smiles as she clutches her newly acquired baby doll...
What do all of these things have in common? The annual JourneyCare All About Kids Program Holiday Party! With the theme of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” nearly 200 children and their families from our All About Kids palliative care and hospice program were recently treated to food, fun, presents, and a special visit from Santa at the Stonegate Banquet and Conference Centre in Hoffman Estates.
While the death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult times, the holidays can compound our sense of loss and isolation. When we're experiencing the pain of grief, the last thing we want to do is participate in any kind of holiday celebration. We want the pain to end, and we can’t imagine being around others at a time that is supposed to be full of joy when we are so burdened with sorrow.
This is a normal way to feel, but since we can’t cut out the calendar from late October through early Januaryof the next year, it might be helpful to modify our plans, and most especially to take good care of ourselves.
Consider the following suggestions:
Today on Black Friday, many of us are searching for the very best bargains we can find on our holiday gifts, but I hope many of you will also join me in extending the “thanks” and the “giving” of yesterday a bit longer.
Since joining JourneyCare early this year, this November is the start of my first holiday season as President of the JourneyCare Foundation. This month is also my first time celebrating National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Both events have created a valuable opportunity to reflect on the amazing care our JourneyCare teams deliver to our patients and their families every single day.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather with friends and family, and reflect on why we are grateful. The holiday is also a time to remember loved ones who are no longer with us. This year let’s honor those we have lost by doing something special.
As you join your family and friends around the table this year, share what brings meaning and joy to your life. Allowing your family to understand what quality of life looks like for you could help them in the future if they are asked to make medical decisions on your behalf. If we don’t have these conversations, our families may be forced to make difficult decisions without having any guidance from us.
November is my favorite month. Not just because of the leftover Halloween candy, my birthday and Thanksgiving, although they are a part of it! November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, and on November 11 we observe Veterans Day. This is a beautiful thing to me as it combines two of my passions.