Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Giving a Little Bit Back

Tonight, a group of singers from Reagle Music Theater are dressing up in our Victorian garb and going caroling. But this isn’t just any caroling outing. This is a very special gift of caroling, because we are caroling at a hospice facility. (http://www.parmenter.org/hospice.cfm)

Those of you who know me personally know that both my parents were served by hospice care at the end of their lives. In my dad’s case, he had hospice nurses caring for him at home for several months; in my mom’s case, she lived at an inpatient hospice facility for about a week. In both cases, the workers we met were unbelievably caring, compassionate, and helpful to not only the patient, but to the family. They offered us support and understanding. They made all the difference in the world in incredibly difficult circumstances. And with my dad passing away in September and my mom passing away in April, we had some time to process our grief before the holiday season arrived. I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be for families that have a loved one in hospice during the Christmas season.

How does someone “celebrate” what they know will be their last Christmas? How does a family celebrate the holiday knowing the grief that is soon to follow? Giving presents isn’t really appropriate. Most hospice patients are ill enough that they can’t enjoy a special meal or edible treat. Many of them are in too much pain or too semiconscious to even appreciate conversations with family. But nearly all of them can hear and enjoy music. And most of them know Christmas carols from their earliest childhood and associate them with happy memories of family celebrations. So hearing Christmas carols is one gift that we can give both patients and their families that is a way for them to celebrate the holiday one last time, something that can be a happy memory for them of their final Christmas with their loved one.

Both of my kids were up in the middle of the night last night and I’m sure by the time this evening rolls around I’ll be pretty tired. But knowing that I might be bringing a small bit of joy into the lives of some people who are struggling to find joy in this usually joyous season is enough to motivate me to get going and do it. And when I get home, I’ll give my little angels (and my big angel, too) an extra-tight squeeze and an extra-long kiss, in thankfulness and joy that they are healthy, happy, and home, and I’ll say an extra prayer for all of those whose loved ones are none of those things.

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