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Welcome to Adeste LLC

CELEBRATING LIFE AND HONORING DEATH

Welcome to Adeste. I am Susan Lawrence, a trained end of life doula. By definition, an EOL doula is available to attend (adeste) to someone. I attend to the dying person and their caregivers in a non-medical role.

How can I, as your doula, help you celebrate your life and honor death? That is entirely up to you!

Legacy: As we spend time together, you can decide the legacy you want to leave behind. Maybe you want to record your history or write letters to your friends and family. A photo collage? A vision board of the dreams you have for your grandchildren? Do you have poetry you wrote, but never shared and now is the time? Maybe it is that secret recipe you want to share. Video and audio recordings are a special way for your loved ones to hear your voice.

Vigil: There is the time of vigil, when death is imminent. How do you want that to look and feel? I am available to sit with you and offer respite to your family and caregivers, to answer questions, listen, and most importantly, to walk with you and your family in these last days and hours.

Grief Support: I am available to your friends and family to reprocess their emotions and if desired, assist with an annual celebration/remembrance of your life.

These moments matter. This is about you. This is your design. I will walk alongside you.

This Big Puzzle Called Life

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Judging by the posts on Facebook, I am not the only one breaking out a jigsaw puzzle to help pass the stay-home-and-stay-safe time.  As I worked on puzzle #2, I realized a few things.

In life, I sometimes try to fit pieces in where they don’t belong, but they might seemed right at the time.

In life, it is hard to see the big picture, one small piece at a time.

In life, there are a limited number of straight edges; all the rest have nooks and crannies.

In life, we sometimes miss a piece and we feel unfinished.

Maybe a special person in your life died.  Maybe a relationship, or your job, or your car died.  You might be missing one or more pieces to the big puzzle called life.  It is still a beautiful picture and the pieces were worth the time it took to match up.  Take time to savor this sometimes-complicated-not-all-straight-edges life.

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

The current, and not-so-short-lived Covid-19 virus has created new challenges for us when we want to be at the bedside of our dying loved one. Maybe our visits are restricted due to the pandemic, work schedules, or geography. How do we connect with our loved one when we can’t be at the bedside? How do we honor our person while they are dying, or if we missed their last moments?

First of all, take a deep breath. Say their name. Hold that breath and hold them close to your heart. That’s a good beginning! With a little creativity, you can set aside a little space to help you feel connected to your loved one.

Create a small altar in your home or yard. This could be a table, a tray, or a part of your garden – designate it as a sacred space. Add little mementos, flowers, candles, a scarf, even a rock that reminds you of your special person. Light the candle, say a little prayer or meditate for awhile. Keep the altar in your home or yard and take a moment daily to spend time with your memories.

Play their favorite music, learn their favorite song or hymn.

Find a photo of your person, set it on the table and have a cup of coffee with them. Talk to them. Cry, laugh, tell stories, share your secrets – this is your time.

Cook or order out their favorite meal or food. You can do this alone or share a meal over the miles by Zoom or FaceTime. If you and your friends or family are far-flung across the globe, pick a date and cook their favorite recipe. Send photos to each other of your finished dishes.

Find a special date (maybe their birthday) and wear their favorite color.

If the date/time of day they died is hard for you, try to think of it as a nudge from them and they are sending you a message that all is well.

Collect their favorite book titles or quotes on pieces of paper. Add them to a scrapbook, use them as bookmarks, or put them in a fireproof container and safely burn them. Once the ashes have cooled, add them to your garden.

Tie colorful ribbons on a tree in your yard. Write their name, a memory, or your thoughts. As the ribbons blow in the breeze, they will be a colorful reminder of your sweet times together. (I did this with a tree in our yard and it gets more colorful as I am reminded of more loved ones from my past.)

Create a rock garden and write special words or thoughts on a few of the rocks. Keep adding to the collection. Maybe include a small plant or two amid the rocks.

You might have one of their old flannel shirts or concert teeshirts. Wear it to feel them close to you, or make the shirt into a pillow and hold onto it on those days when you need a hug from them.

Bring muffins or cookies to the nurses who were at their side in the hospital or facility. It feels good to connect with those who were caring for your person. Even a simple thank-you note to the staff or hospice team can make you feel closer to your loved one.

Share their favorite hankies or scarves with their close friends. Bonus…they are inexpensive to mail!

If they had a favorite server in a restaurant and you live nearby, get a meal and leave a tip for them in the name of your person.

Find a way to celebrate your loved one in a way that touches your heart. You can be close to their spirit even when you are miles (or a pandemic) away.

To Grandma Walt

A Prayer Upon Learning of a Death by Eli Effinger-Weintraub

[NAME], I honor the body that you were
The words you spoke
The passions that moved you
The love you shared
The life you lived.

These were not always easy to live
Or to live with
But they were always you,
And I honor you in that wholeness.

I grieve that you are no longer present in my life
I regret that I could not be with you at the end
I allow myself to hurt and to heal
Whatever form that takes
However long it takes

Whole and holy Earth, take back the body of [NAME] that was formed from you
Make new forms and lives from it
May a piece of [NAME]’s life infuse the new lives that grow from it.
May the passing forms of this life and the tears of our grief sustain the web of your creation.

Blessed be

I have read this poem many times and each time something new comes to me, but then again, isn’t that what poetry should do in us?  I think my grandma is on my mind more lately because I have recently connected with a relative in Norway – a third cousin.  That’s a story for another time.

My grandma’s life wasn’t always easy.  My cantankerous grandpa must have been part gypsy; they moved often and collected addresses in Minnesota, Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas, and back to Minnesota.

I grieve that she is no longer here.  We exchanged letters and occasional phone calls.  I miss that communication with her.  She told me once that a ‘boring life is better than a troubled life’…good to know when I think I am bored;  I keep that close to my heart.

I regret that I could not be with her in the end.  I was with her near the end, but not ‘the’ end.  I promised my grandparents I would take care of them when they got old.  I couldn’t keep that promise for many reasons.  I like to think that is one of the reasons I chose to become an end of life doula.

The Earth took her body (ok, her ashes) and on that same day, seven years later, my first granddaughter was born.  A new form.  A new life.

Now of course, this poem wasn’t written with my grandma’s name in it.  It is written for us to insert the name of our loved one.  I chose to put my grandma’s name in this poem this time.  She is the person I am missing these days.  Although she died in 1999, I miss her in different ways through different chapters in my life.  I miss her lefse when I am trying to replicate it – using a modern day recipe because I need a few solid directions.  I miss her tricking me into going to bed as little one – “Susie, will you warm up my side of the bed?”.  I miss her beautiful hardanger stitching.  I miss visiting her in Florida and eating the fresh fruit she always fixed for breakfast.  I miss playing her Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums on her TV/stereo console.  I miss her patience while listening to my flute music.  Most of all, I miss her common sense.  By the way, her name is Alice, but we always called them Grandma and Grandpa Walt (his name).  She became Grandma Walt…  The picture below was taken years ago.  Grandma  Walt created these beautiful dolls with her hardanger skills.

Who do you miss right now?  Will you take the time to insert their name into this poem and spend a few moments honoring their memory?

Sue and Grandma with hardanger doll copy

A Simple Chair Ritual for Comfort

Years ago, I was geographically far from a loved one when they were gravely ill.  Feeling lonely and helpless can be overwhelming.  If we can take a moment to catch our breath, those feelings will slowly get smaller and we can give ourselves the space to honor our loved one.  The following chair ritual was shared with me by Anne Murphy, a celebrant, vigil guide, and death educator.  You can learn more about Anne at her website, A Thousand Hands.

CHAIR RITUAL

If you are anticipating a death or experiencing a death and you are unable to physically be with your person ~

  • Find an area in your home where you can be seated and place a chair in front of you.
  • Place an object that symbolizes your person on the chair.  A few suggestions for an object: a photo, an article of clothing, or a blanket.
  • Sit down facing the chair.
  • Center your breath and body by breathing in to the count of 5 and exhaling to the count of 5; do this 3-5 times.
  • As you would open the door for a person who is visiting your home, invite your person to have a seat on the chair.
  • When you feel ready, speak out loud or silently as if your person is sitting across from you.
  • Share any words of love, gratitude, or forgiveness.
  • Receive any words, sensations, or images of gratitude, love, or forgiveness.
  • As you would walk a visitor out of your home, let your person know that you are complete.

Repeat as needed and adapt to what works best for you.

End-of-Life Doula Hotline

A group of doulas trained in compassionate listening, have launched a toll-free hotline for those who are struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic.  I am humbled to be a part of this group – offering time and deep listening to those who are hurting and may not know where to turn for help.  Along with listening, the hotline has a rich resource list for those who may need other professionals in their grief journey.

Doula Hotline Flyer

National Healthcare Decisions Day

National Healthcare Decisions Day is today!  This day is on the calendar to educate the public and the healthcare community about, well, their healthcare decisions.  So many people avoid the conversation and the decision-making process because they are not sure what they want or what the future might hold.  I advise my clients to plan for the ‘now’.  You can always update it later.  Maybe your circumstances change and you need to assign a different healthcare agent.  Maybe you realize you don’t want a ventilator – especially now in light of the Covid-19 pandemic; or maybe you want one!  Chances are you don’t understand the CPR procedure and the risks, so you avoid making decisions.

Starting isn’t as scary as it sounds.  Have a conversation with your loved one(s) and let them know what your wishes mean to you.  Create an Advance Care Directive, documenting those wishes.  If you are frail or have a serious illness, speak with your physician about a POLST (Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).  Not everyone needs a POLST form.  Advance Care planning visits are reimbursable by Medicare.

There are tools available for you.  I am here to assist in this process.  Now is not the time to leave anything to chance.

I recommend (and use) the following tools:  Honoring Choices, The Conversation Project, Five Wishes, and End in Mind Project.

You have some time on your hands; call me and we can start the conversation.

I wish you peace and health in these uncertain times.

Loving, Living, and Dying During Covid 19

A group of end of life professionals gathered over Zoom (following our guidelines, right?) and created a resource guide on grief and loss during the Covid 19 pandemic.  These are times like no other, so it is a time to find new ways to do almost everything.  We aren’t able to be at our loved ones’ bedside when they die of this horrible virus.  This is a different kind of loss.  It requires a different kind of touch.

I am available 24/7 if you have questions, or don’t even know what questions to ask.  I will hold that sacred space for you.  The link below will bring up the one-page resource.  Please feel free to share far and wide.  It is our intention to help calm the storm.

Loving, Living, and Dying during COVID-19

Peace,

Susan

 

 

Peace in a Time of Chaos

We are facing unprecedented times right now (at least for my generation).  I am shocked at the empty shelves in the grocery store.  I have never seen a line in Target waiting for the toilet paper to be unloaded from a truck that hasn’t even arrived yet.  Even my own pantry – more beans and rice than ever before.

When will this end?  When will we be able to share a cup of coffee at a small table or go to the movies together?  When will we do our normal grocery store run and not have to wonder if there is hand sanitizer available?

We don’t know.

Listening to the news nonstop can make matters worse.  Isolating from our friends and family creates more loneliness.  Worrying about our next paycheck or life without our tips can cause sleepless nights.  Maybe you have a friend or family member who is in panic-mode right now.  These are just a few of the things that will steal our peace.

If possible, turn off the TV for awhile.  Unplug your devices.  Take time to be still and find the quiet.  Breathe.  Focus.  Find that calm within.  Pray.  Meditate.  Hold your puppy close.  Take a walk outside – in your neighborhood or a park.  Nature is a great remedy for many things.  Take the time to be gentle with yourself.  When you turn your phone on again, call a friend or a neighbor – they might need to hear your friendly voice.

This will pass.  We can do this.  Breathe, and hold your loved ones close.  Stay well, my friends.

 

National Caregiver Day ~ Show the Love

Today we celebrate the caregivers ~ the paid caregivers and the volunteers who give their time and talents to make life just a bit more comfortable for our loved ones.  Although you don’t have to wait for an official ‘day’ to show appreciation, it helps to have a reminder.

With families spread out across the country, many seniors are relying on outside help with household chores, errands, and healthcare.  Maybe you are the caregiver for a loved one and with time as a precious commodity, you find a way to make sure your parent/friend/family member is comfortable and safe.

Thank you for the long hours you give; making sure your family member or clients are safe, clean, and happy.  Thank you to your own family when they miss you during an extra long shift.  Thank you to the agencies who carefully screen their staff to ensure quality care.

Do you have a caregiver?  You can show them the love in a note and tell them how they make your life easier.  If writing is difficult for you, a simple verbal ‘thank you’ will go a long way.

Have you hired a caregiver for a family member?  A short thank-you note will make their day.  If the caregiver is with an agency, call their manager to let them know how important they are in your loved ones’ life.  Many agencies discourage employees from accepting gifts; if you choose to give them a small token of appreciation, check with their manager to see if this is acceptable per company policy.

Are you the caregiver?  Treat yourself to a massage or a touch-up manicure if time allows.  If not,  a cup of tea and a little down time might be enough to recharge you.  You are managing a crazy balancing act between your family at home and your loved ones’ or clients.

You are doing important work every day in every interaction with your client, patient, or loved one.  I salute you and the kindness you bring each day when you show up and do the caring.

Thank you!

 

 

Step up to the (dinner) Plate

With the holidays approaching at the speed of light, it is easy to get caught up in our to-do lists, gift shopping, decorating…. and let’s not forget the holiday baking! While many of us are surrounded by family and friends year-round, there is a large population of older adults who are alone in this world and holidays can be very painful. In a study by the University of Michigan and AARP, 1 in 3 adults say they lack regular companionship. (AARP 4 March 2019).

Look around your neighborhood, check your address book; any solos who could use a friend? A recent widow or widower? Who sits next to you in church, alone, week after week? Let your family and friends know there is an extra dinner plate at the table this year. Not cooking this year? No one expects a gourmet meal – a friendly face and a simple cup of coffee can go a long way to ease someone’s loneliness.

See Synergy Home Care’s newsletter to read my original article about isolation around the holidays. Contact Synergy Home Care for more information on their services.