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.
The death of a loved one…it’s the single most stressful event in life. When you are thrown into grief, the feelings can be overwhelming and so personal that we (and others) often have a hard time understanding them. The pain of grief after losing a loved one has been described as “losing an arm; it takes time to process the enormity of the loss, it feels like it should still be there and you keep trying to use it but it’s gone…everything and I mean EVERYTHING is so hard to do.”
Taveon Woodward, a very special boy in JourneyCare’s All About Kids pediatric program, just turned 9 and is living with rhabdoid pleuropulmonary blastoma – his third relapse since he was first diagnosed at 3 years old. At the start of this year, the doctors gave him the “all clear,” but by April they told him it was “back with a vengeance." This time, though, his only treatment option is palliative chemotherapy to treat his symptoms.
When Social Worker Jennifer Leahy Junas and I admitted Taveon, we knew his birthday was close and could be his last. We asked how he would like to celebrate this year, and he shared that he'd love to go roller skating. Oh boy! With that response my mind went a’whirling to my own childhood …
JourneyCare pet therapy volunteers bring a variety of trained, furry companions to visit patients in their homes, assisted-living and care facilities, and our Hospice CareCenters. They may also comfort campers at Camp Courage, JourneyCare’s bereavement camp for children ages 6-13, who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
Twelve years ago, I was a patient at the Rehab Institute of Chicago (RIC). The day that I was transferred there was a low point for me as I’d hoped instead to be going home. As I settled into my new surroundings, I noticed a dog and its owner standing in the hallway outside of my room. Before I knew it, the dog was at my bedside, resting its head on the side of my bed and looking up at me with eyes of love. The dog was one of several therapy dogs assigned to work at RIC. To this day, that visit stands out as a turning point in my long recovery from major surgery and multiple strokes. As a life-long dog lover, I told myself that someday, when I had the time, I would train a therapy dog so we could bring the same peace and joy that I’d experienced to others.