JourneyCare is proud to host Kimberly Paul, author of “Bridging the Gap” and podcast host of “Death by Design,” as she shares touching and humorous personal stories and life lessons she discovered while working at the bedside of hospice patients for nearly 20 years. Kimberly is traveling across the U.S. in an RV to educate communities, help people feel more comfortable talking about end of life, and empower individuals to reclaim death as a human experience and not a medical event. Get tickets at journeycare.org/livewell.
As I travel the country on my Live Well, Die Well tour, a road trip of 49 states in an RV, in an effort to reclaim death from the medical community as well as Washington D.C., I’ve encountered something interesting: People do not think individuals suffering from a serious illness are able to embrace living. Throughout our lives we forget that death is one single moment. And yes, even those facing a serious illness—that most likely will take their life—are living fully and have managed to be some of my greatest teachers of life. People are mostly not afraid of death; they are afraid of suffering prior to death.
“What can I do to help?”
That question often weighs on the minds of the parents or guardians of a grieving child.
Some children instinctually express their emotions through verbalization, art, music and play. Other children need guidance on how to express feelings of grief and loss.
“It is helpful to children when the adults in their lives provide opportunities to acknowledge the grief everyone is feeling,” The National Alliance for Grieving Children states. “It is also helpful when children can gather with peers grieving similar situations.”
Bereavement camp is a place where children can meet other kids who are facing grief, and are given the opportunity to bond and process loss with them.
Life happens and for many of us that moment comes when the phone rings and suddenly our world is thrown upside down as we race to the rescue of a loved one or friend who has been diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness.
But you are not alone.
This February 28, the JourneyCare Foundation is proud to invite you to 'Love, Loss, and What I Wore,' a play written by Nora and Delia Ephron, based on the book by Ilene Beckerman. It is organized as a series of monologues and features an all-female cast. The women reflect on relationships and what they wore, using the wardrobe as a time capsule of a woman’s life. JourneyCare Board Member Stephanie Leese Emrich will direct this production.
“Death Over Dinner.” No, it’s not the title of a new “whodunit,” but rather the name of a nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage the one conversation most of us never have: the one about death.
They have a point. When I was young, my friends and I talked endlessly about the meaning of life. But we never talked about death. We still don’t. If we come close, it’s only to talk about the paperwork—advanced directives, living wills, revocable trusts—but not what it means to die. No doubt, we will approach the issue when someone close to us nears the end of life, but in the midst of caring for their needs or coping emotionally ourselves, we may not be capable of pondering such a big question.
I look forward to our Tree of Lights celebrations every year. My personal experience with grief and loss has been eased by participating not only as a staff member, but a grieving person in my own right. Let me share a story with you ...
In the past 18 years, I have had the privilege of providing grief support to family members of hospice patients as well as members of the community at-large. Little did I know when I began my connection to JourneyCare as a volunteer over 20 years ago, I would become part of one of the most compassionate organizations that serves people at the most critical juncture in their lives. What was once a small agency now reaches across 10 counties in the Chicago region.
The buzzwords “comfort care” are creating questions since the Bush family announced that former First Lady Barbara Bush, 92, will no longer seek medical services. Bush lives with illnesses that include congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
Instead, the family announced that Mrs. Bush is now receiving “comfort care” at her Houston home and news outlets report she is spending time with her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, and her sons, former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Last December I had the pleasure of visiting a retired artist and teacher. His advanced prostate cancer left him with pain throughout his body, and his bladder spasms and infections had helped to slowly cease his social life. He was referred to music therapy services to elevate his mood and lessen social isolation, to promote reminiscence, story-sharing, and life review, and to refocus him away from feelings of pain and discomfort. As with all clients who I see for music therapy, I have the wonderful challenge of finding how music interventions can assist in easing identified symptoms. Knowing that the brain can only take in so much information at once, using Brian’s* preferred music held his attention and engaged him in enjoyable and meaningful moments, pulling his focus away from his pain. The perception of his pain and discomfort lessened as we sang together and talked about the music he loved throughout his life.
Mary and her husband Bob are, it seems, glued at the hip, two bodies with one soul. They remind me of my parents who are also in their early nineties, failing in health after living fulfilled, long and good lives, coming from similar backgrounds, with A LOT of kids (eight), a Catholic upbringing and of course, hoping to live forever.
As her massage therapist, I visit Mary, who has congestive heart failure and dementia. Mary has been declining fast and losing her hearing, so I often place my iPhone music right down next to her so she can feel the vibrations. She always smiles. I tell her at each visit that she looks just like the gorgeous Hollywood diva Lana Turner, and she smiles again.
“The past is gone, the future is not yet here. If we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” ̶ Thich Nhat Hanh
Before I came to work as a social worker at JourneyCare, I was a volunteer for many years. During that time, I visited with a hospice patient, who I will call Susan. Susan was in her 50s and had ovarian cancer. One day she shared with me that she had been an avid golfer and that she was feeling sad that she would never golf again. I asked her if she would like me to take her to the driving range and she lit up. Her family was pretty nervous about the idea, but Susan said to all of us, “I want to live until I die.”