A Farewell Salute
Posted by Mina Patel
Recently at our Hospice CareCenter at Northwest Community Hospital we cared for a patient, Robert*, who was formerly at a nursing home. He was without family. The only friend we knew about, who was responsible for his power of attorney, lived some distance away. Because Robert was minimally responsive and had not had any visitors, we did not know much about him. This is always a little difficult because we want to understand the patient as a person, to put a "story" together of a life. One of the only details we knew about Robert was that he was a veteran of World War II.
Robert died on a September evening. Unfortunately, his friend was not able to come to see him due to her own health issues and the distance.
Synchronistically, that evening JourneyCare's We Honor Veterans program Coordinator, Linda Rockwell, and members of our Veteran Volunteer Advisory Council, were at the CareCenter for a scheduled meeting.
The JourneyCare Veteran Volunteer Advisory Council is comprised of twelve military veterans who currently serve as patient care volunteers with our organization. The group represents all major US conflicts, ranging from two WW II veterans to one who is on active duty, currently based at Naval Station Great Lakes. They offer guidance and feedback on the development and execution of our projects and programs conducted under the purview of the We Honor Veterans program.
The nursing staff planned to perform a dignity ceremony for Robert. As the patient was being prepared to leave the CareCenter to be picked up by the funeral home, Robert's nurse, Farah Blake, asked Linda and the Veteran Volunteer Advisory Council to join in the procession. As our singing bowl sounded in the background, the patient — with the American flag covering him — was led off, the veteran volunteers processing behind him with solemnity, pride and respect. At the point of departure, the veterans gave Robert a heartfelt salute.
What would have been a sad moment became a respectful and honoring moment. It was one of the most moving patient send offs that the staff present and I have every witnessed. We feel so fortunate and privileged to bear witness and be part of something so beautiful.
*Name has been changed.