Celebrations of Life
Posted by Jessica Gardner
I joined the JourneyCare Foundation five weeks ago, helping the Foundation raise funds to cover uncompensated care. Because I’m not a clinician and I don’t work in any of our other patient or family facing departments, I quickly realized that in order to be most effective, I needed to find a way to keep patients front and center in my mind and never lose sight of my “why” for being at JourneyCare. I brought in a photo of my Nana who passed away eight years ago after seven years of round-the-clock care by my family. We didn’t know about hospice or palliative care services. I joined JourneyCare because I want to help ensure other families don't go through such a physically and emotionally painful ordeal alone.
In my short time at JourneyCare, I’ve discovered that we go over and above to provide extra care and services that patients and their families don’t even realize they need or want, but which help provide comfort. One of these extras has been particularly impactful on me.
When someone dies in our Hospice CareCenters, we hold a Celebration of Life ̶ a dignified farewell procession as the deceased patient is taken to a hearse. JourneyCare team members line the hallway as the family, led by a nurse and funeral director accompanying the departed patient, pass through. A song chosen by the family is played and we take a few minutes to silently honor the deceased and his or her family.
Watching the body draped in a quilt, lovingly sewn and donated by a JourneyCare volunteer, escorted from the building by their family touches my heart every time and has brought me to tears more than once. I cry for the person I didn’t know and whose story I’ll probably never learn. I cry for the parents who lose a child way too soon. I cry for my Nana and my own ignorance about hospice that could have brought her and my family peace and comfort. Mostly, though, I cry because I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to help people die with dignity and spread the message of our services so that no family goes through death alone.
After attending my first Celebration of Life, I called my mom and asked if Nana received such treatment when the funeral home picked her up from the nursing home in Florida. I knew the answer, but I just needed to hear my mom affirm that JourneyCare stands above the rest in the care and support we provide to each patient and family.
Celebrations of Life last for maybe five minutes and are voluntary to attend, but they impact me all day. Taking the time to honor our patients and their families and connect with our mission of “enriching lives through expert and compassionate care” keeps me focused on the people we serve and let go of the little things that may otherwise distract me throughout the day. It also makes me proud of the work we do.