Tree of Lights…from both sides now
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.
Six years ago, our former Facilities Manager and my late husband, Dave, was in our care. The support surrounding his end of life and my own personal journey through grief was life-changing for both of us. I could not have survived without the Bereavement Team and the supportive leadership of the organization.
Just as my feet began to hit solid ground again, my younger brother Fred, who was a very independent complex Texan with frontal temporal lobe dementia, was moved to Illinois under my care. I found long-term care for him with one of our partners, and for as long as I could, he and I would go for long car rides on the weekends.
Sadly, as his disease progression was rapid, I was no longer able to be take him out. He developed serious balance, cognitive and behavioral issues. Although he was getting good care, he needed that extra layer of support that only JouneyCare can provide when one has a life-limiting illness.
Fred was assessed and deemed eligible for hospice care, and the extra support he received over his many months with JourneyCare was extraordinary. He was surrounded by his excellent case manager Kate Rodell, social workers Barbara Mistel and Deb Lee, as well as chaplain Bruce Moore and a volunteer, Laurie Waldron.
As he was a Vietnam vet, veterans program manager Linda Rockwell made arrangements for a pinning ceremony for Fred while our brother was visiting from New Hampshire. Our brother was also a Marine, and he received a pin, too.
When Fred came to the end of his life, he was in crisis and Dr. Nerad made arrangements for him to be transferred to the Marshak Family Hospice CareCenter for symptom management. The team there, especially Dr. Charles Lindsey and Dr. Usha Patel — as well as the nurses and CNAs — provided tender care to ensure his end of life was comfortable. I sat vigil for almost a week with him and colleagues came, once again to provide support, and sustained me in my grief.
Last year, I placed an ornament on the Tree of Lights in Barrington and I knew deep in my soul that the two most important people in my life were cared for with compassion, dignity and respect. I am forever grateful.