A Toast to Those We Love
- By: Anne Beaver
I have just returned from Philadelphia where I attended the wedding of the youngest daughter of dear friends. A little over a year ago we attended their oldest daughter’s wedding and though completely different, it would be difficult to say which was the more beautiful. In part that is because the family itself is so lovely, not only physically but spiritually. They have perfected the art of meaningful toasts at rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions, retirement parties, and other significant family gatherings. It is always an honor to be present and to witness their love for each other as shared in these carefully crafted tributes.
They model for those of us who are taking note the importance of using special family occasions to affirm what we appreciate about those we love and to share our hopes and dreams for them as they face significant transitions. At Susanna Zorn’s wedding, her eloquent father, Dr. Don Zorn, not only blessed his beautiful daughter in words both humorous and profound, but recalled the words of his own belated father, a United Methodist Minister, to add his blessing. When her brother, Austin, shared his memories and words of encouragement for Sus, and her sister, Sarah, offered hers, it was a gift to all present. There are so many details to care for in planning a wedding that it is certainly understandable if the toasts are not high on the list of priorities. But as I have observed families, those who use toasts to bless their family members and wish them well gift not only them, but all in attendance.
Making the most of significant life transitions is one of the gifts of the ministry to which I have been devoted over the past fifteen years as a chaplain at Big Bend Hospice. While certainly not as joyful as a wedding, being present with families as they express their love for family members who are in the last chapter of their lives is a sacred privilege. Bearing witness to the courage, faith, and hope that patients and beloved family members and friends show is inspiring. And watching my compassionate and expert colleagues interact with patients and family members in enhancing the time they have left together is moving.
November is National Hospice Month, during which hospices across the country hope to make people more aware of the services that hospice offers to those who are given the gift of some time to live with a terminal illness. We want all in our community to know we have a team of devoted professionals who are eager to learn from every patient we serve what we can do to assist them in living as well as possible for as long as possible. From physicians certified in hospice and palliative care, to social workers skilled at helping with family dynamics and resources, to spiritual care counselors trained in active listening, to nurses and aides skilled at pain-control and symptom management, all are eager to support as needed. Our Music Therapists have been compared to angels as they skillfully use music for physical and emotional comfort, and our hospice house has been described as the front porch of heaven itself. Patients and families determine which of our services, including trained volunteers, will be most supportive of their goals, and together we devise a plan of care to meet those goals in one of life’s most significant transitions.
In celebration of National Hospice Month, Big Bend Hospice and Aging with Dignity will be offering a free community gathering on Tuesday evening, November 19, from 6:00-7:30 PM at the Carriage House at Goodwood Museum and Gardens, 1600 Miccosukee Road. Jim Towey, who founded Aging with Dignity, created the Five Wishes living will document, and volunteered in Mother Teresa’s homes for the dying in Calcutta and Washington, DC, will be the featured speaker. Towey headed Florida’s Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services under Gov. Chiles, directed the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives under President Bush, and has presided over two universities. But most significantly, he has a passion for helping people live and die with dignity. He will be sharing with us stories of how Mother Teresa changed his life, teaching him to honor and make the most of life’s transitions. There will be free parking and light refreshments as together we toast the difference that hospice services can make in the lives of those who are living as meaningfully as possible in life’s final chapter. We hope you will save the date and join us on November 19.
If you go:
What: Jim Towey: How Mother Teresa Changed My Life
Where: Goodwood Museum Carriage House, 1600 Miccosukee Road, Tallahassee, Florida
When: November 19, 2019 6:00-7:30PM
Cost: Free including presentation, light refreshments and parking
Sponsored by Big Bend Hospice, Aging with Dignity, and the Community Advance Care Planning Encouragement Task Force