Hospice Memorial Services Offer Comfort to Families, Caregivers and Staff
By Adam Raider
As much as Masonicare is focused on enhancing the quality of life for all of our residents and patients, we also accept that death is a part of life … and a journey that patients and their families need not take alone. When a hospice patient passes, Masonicare Annual Appeal dollars are used to support memorial services in communities served by the various branches of Masonicare Hospice. Held annually, these non-denominational services offer compassionate support to bereaved families, caregivers and even Masonicare hospice staff grieving the loss of their patients.
"Bereavement," said Rev. Carl Anderson, Vice President for Mission Effectiveness at Masonicare, "is an important part of the service we provide for people who are dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one."
Family members who had loved ones pass away within the previous year are invited to the next scheduled memorial service in their Masonicare Hospice coverage area. Jean Morris, Lead Spiritual Care and Bereavement Coordinator of the Wallingford and Eastern branches of Masonicare Hospice, explained that each service is a little different – one might include a dove or butterfly release, depending on the season – but some of the staples include music, words of inspiration, a reading of the names of those who have passed, live readings of poems, an expressive arts display communicating a particular theme about loss and healing, memorial tables where family members can place photographs or personal belongings of their loved ones, and a ritual table where attendees can engage in a ritual to remember and honor their loved one. Refreshments are also provided – one of the many expenses paid for by gifts to the Annual Appeal.
"One of the special things about these services," Morris said, "is that they're planned and run by the hospice staff themselves. Although I and the other Spiritual Care Coordinators might lead the services and explain the meaning behind the rituals, it's the hospice staff who are doing readings, setting up the ritual tables, and greeting the families afterward. It becomes a reunion – an opportunity for families and caregivers to reconnect in a time and place separate from when we were providing hospice care."
Hospice memorial services have drawn as many as 200 guests. Morris hopes that everyone in attendance leaves better equipped to handle their current or any subsequent losses they experience.
"I tell the audience that even if no family members showed up," Morris said, "we would still do this because of the benefit to our hospice staff members. We work in a high loss environment and sometimes we need to stop the clock. Ritual and remembrance help us do that. It's cathartic and therapeutic for the staff as well as for the families. Hospice memorial services are mutually beneficial for everyone."
Annual Appeal donors should feel proud that their donations are helping to bring comfort to others when they need it most.
"One of the prime concerns expressed by people who are dying is for the loved ones they leave behind," Morris said. "I am deeply grateful for the resources of The Masonic Charity Foundation that help support the hospice program in its care of the grieving families of our patients."