By Malarie Allen | Public Relations Specialist
Everyone has a story. The end-of-life journey often evokes these stories as people reflect on their years. Shepherd’s Cove staff and volunteers are privileged to hear many of these tales – accounts of overcoming, reports of difficulties, words of appreciation, and legends of greatness in many different forms.
Sharing these stories is not just for the patients’ sake. They are gifts to those who hear. They are treasures we can learn from and hold onto for the rest of our lives. It’s one of the most beautiful opportunities that come from companioning people on their end-of-life journey.
Our Inpatient Unit Director, nurse Joy, said it beautifully:
“I am amazed by the people that we have the opportunity to meet and serve. … Just having the privilege to sit and talk with people who (or whose loved ones) served in WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam to serving as local high school coaches, teachers, and also those less fortunate … They all have one thing in common – their Earthly bodies will cease to function. No matter who they were in life, what high accomplishments they achieved or what fate befell them, they will all draw their last breath, and we are the ones who are blessed with serving them through that sometimes beautiful, sometimes difficult process. How extremely awesome is that?”
We believe peace, compassion, and dignity at the end of life are fundamental human rights that should be available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, demographics, affiliations, or life choices.
If you know someone facing the end of their life, ask them for their stories. Amidst the chaos, doctor visits, treatments, and sickness that often encompass life with terminal illness, take time to listen. Pull out their photo albums and marvel as the pictures come to life through their own words, and try to take some time to preserve those memories. It’s worth it. Here are some ideas:
Record their stories
Use a voice or video recorder to save your loved one’s stories. One day, you will not only appreciate the narratives but also being able to hear his or her voice again.
Gather those old photographs – go through the drawers of pictures and documents. Put it all together in a physical or digital scrapbook to beautifully showcase your loved one’s life.
Recipe books or displays
Food can trigger fond memories of loved ones cooking together, family meals, and holiday gatherings. Gather your loved one’s favorite recipes to preserve and share. Look for pages with your loved one’s own handwriting. You may even have to ask them to write the recipe down or listen and record as they share the cooking process. Preserve these memories in a recipe book or scrapbook. You can keep these books or make copies to share with the family.
Turn some of your favorite handwritten recipes into art by framing them or having them etched on a plate or other type of display.
Use scraps of material from your loved one’s clothing, ties, or other meaningful linens to make a beautiful quilt. When the weather gets cold, you can wrap yourself in the comforting memories of your loved one.