Angel wings and art in hospice
Posted by Jessica Sandacz, Art Therapy Intern
I started as an art therapy intern with JourneyCare in July. I initially felt nervous to begin working in hospice. In school, we were taught treatment planning over the course of months ̶ but with end-of life-care, it was potentially an expedited timeline. I knew that with some patients, I might only get to see them one time. I questioned how much of an impact I could possibly make having only one session with someone. I worried about the power such limited time could have.
A month into my internship, I was scheduled to visit Caitlin for an art therapy session with my supervising art therapist, Megan. Caitlin was our age (in her early 30s) and living with cancer.
Megan and I walked into Caitlin’s room. A hospital bed sat in the center with most of her things piled or in boxes against the walls. She was the thinnest person I had ever seen and had great trouble even sitting up in bed.
We sat at her bedside and started by just talking. Caitlin shared that she majored in painting and drawing at Columbia. Caitlin would motion to a part of the room and Megan and I would rummage through stacks and boxes until we found particular pieces of art she created ̶ she glowed when she spoke about them.
The three of us painted ceramic angel-wing pendants during our time together. We rocked out to ‘90s music, questioned what happened to Freddie Prinze Jr., and shared stories of art school in the city.
During the session, Caitlin shared that she had a good support system; her friends regularly came over to her house to visit. Caitlin said she was sad though because her friends would have stories and new things to tell her about their lives and she felt she didn’t have anything to contribute since she was sitting in bed all day. I offered for Caitlin to take extra angel wings for each of her friends and to keep my paints, so that the next time they came to visit, she could give them each an art piece she created to take with them. Caitlin looked happy and continued painting as we left.
Caitlin and I were only able to have that one day together. Within that special time, Megan and I helped re-spark Caitlin’s love of artmaking and also gave her a space to be a regular 32-year-old again. Our time together holds a special place in my heart ̶ it’s a constant reminder that it’s not entirely about the amount of time that’s left, it’s what you do with it that makes all the difference.
Note: Names have been changed.
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