Bereavement Service

Hello.  My name is Jenny Buckley and I am one of the Weinstein Hospice team members. Many of you may have met me on your first exposure to Weinstein and let me say with sincerity that I am so grateful for the trust you shared with me by going forward with our program.  I am humbled to be among you again today.

In my many years of hospice experience, I have, admittedly, developed some phrases I am guilty of repeating often. If I was the nurse that came to see you first, I may have, in fact,  said these things to you. For example, I often say, it is never anyone’s best day when I show up. I get that. Even though I know the tremendous gifts hospice care can provide to patients and families, I understand that it is only with a heavy heart that one contemplates the need for hospice care. I am also guilty of repeatedly saying that while I have a bag of tricks that can treat a myriad of symptoms, there is no quick fix for the inherent sadness in this process. I get that, too.

In those first meetings, I understand that a lot of what I might say won’t penetrate and that words fail in such moments of import.

But words… words are my thing. They are the currency I use to try and express my empathy and my desire to assist.  

Today, sharing this time with you, with my heart full and my throat tight, I have words to share. Words that again may fail, but I’d like to share, nevertheless.

The most important thing I want to say is thank you. Thank you for sharing your loved one with us. It was a privilege. Regardless of the length of time they spent on our program, our team is grateful for the time we spent with them.

Our time together may have been difficult. It may be hard to remember. People think hospice care is sad for the people that do it and, at times, it certainly can be. But all of us on the Weinstein team would be quick to acknowledge that our days, our experiences produce a surreal level of gratitude. We understand the privilege of what you’ve invited us to share and we want you to know that. We are blessed with observing some of the most incredible and beautiful acts of humanity in our work that many other healthcare professionals don’t get to see. And, while not always easy, we see our work as tasking us with grabbing gratitude in our own lives because we can have lunch with Mom, take a walk with our sister on the beach, kiss our spouse goodnight.

There’s something else that is very important to say. Your loved one- the person you shared with us- the person who’s memory brought you here today- was very special to us.

Very. Very. Special.

As we read the names of the souls we served last year, you may wonder or worry that your loved one, the precious person you delivered to us for care, was lost in the numbers.

I assure you they were not.

Each person for whom we cared, each soul that we honor today, impacted us and changed us.

Each person for whom we cared, and the family that surrounded them, taught us something new that helped us to better care for the next patient and family with whom we interacted.

Your loved one has not been nor will not be forgotten. They are forever woven into the fabric of Weinstein Hospice and their memory is for a blessing.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the GHPCO conference. GHPCO is an acronym for the Georgia Hospice and Palliative Care organization. In my career I’ve attended NHPCO, GHPCO, CAPC and have undergone ELNEC training. I’m an RN, BSN, with my CHPN certification. Basically, I’ve had the alphabet soup of end of life care training and education. Recently, however, I was exposed to a very beautiful lesson on grief and loss in a most unexpected place. It was a supracalifragilisticexpialadocious lesson, in fact.

Last month, my Mom and I went to see the new “Mary Poppins” movie. In case you missed it, allow me to provide a brief recap. Mary returns to the Banks family in the newly released version, except this time the Banks children are grown and Michael has children of his own. Mary returns with her unabashed confidence and competence only to find- or maybe because she already knew- that this young family greatly needs her help. Michael’s wife, the mother of the three children, has recently died and the Banks home, more specifically the Banks’ financial situation, is in disarray.

Early in the movie, the now grown Michael is seen in the attic looking for a very important document. He comes across a strand of pearls that belonged to his deceased wife and holds them in his hands. He begins a beautiful and touching song called “The Conversation”. His closing verse is the one that touched my heart. He sings:

    “I’ll carry on just like you told me,

    I say that like I have a choice,

    And though you are not here to hold  me

    In the echoes I can hear your voice.

    Still one question fills my day dear,

    The answer I’ve most longed to know

    Each moment since you went away dear

    My question, love, is

    Where’d you go……”

Where did you go? Where did you go, indeed. A painful question, to be sure. A common question, I can imagine.

Without stepping on anyone’s theology, our hero, Mary Poppins, suggests an answer several scenes later. As she is putting Michael’s children to bed at night, she senses their grief. Quite simply, John, Anna, and Georgie miss their Mom and they are also keenly aware of their father’s stress. With loving compassion, Mary sings a song that is, in fact, nominated for an Oscar tonight. Whether or not the song brings home the trophy, its message is certainly a winner. Looking out the bedroom window into a starry sky, Mary tells the children, “Nothing’s really left or lost without a trace, Nothing is gone forever only out of place”.

Her song concludes:

    “So when you need her touch and loving gaze,

    Gone but not forgotten is the perfect phrase

    Smiling from a star, that she makes glow

    Trust she’s always there

    Watching as you grow

    Find her in the place

    Where the lost things go”

Mary’s loving message, in my opinion, is right on point. She doesn’t suggest that anyone stop missing their loved one, she only offers a strategy to cope with the loss.

I can absolutely assure each of you that our team members, the ones you honored by inviting them into your home and shared a very sacred and intimate- and scary- time, often look for your loved one in the place where the lost things go. When our hearts get heavy with the question, “where’d you go” we seek to answer it by looking at the stars that they make glow, or in the breeze that feels so good on a warm day because gone but not forgotten is truly the perfect phrase.

And you know where else we find them? In you. In seeing you today as you carry on “just like they told you” (like you have a choice)  but still make time and place to honor their memory. We see them in your smiles- and in your tears. We absolutely feel them in your hugs.

Again, we thank you for sharing them. We have not forgotten them and we think what you did for them in their last days was extraordinarily brave. As the philosopher Ram Das most famously said, we are all just walking each other home. Thank you for letting us be a part of that journey.