Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice - Sheboygan, WI

Creating a Gift of Community

Creating a gift of community (The Sheboygan Press)

Angelia Neumann 12:06 a.m. CST December 9, 2015

Hospice team creates personalized ornaments in memory of loved ones

 


I just completed a special project, something I’ve never done before that had great meaning to me.

Our hospice team wanted to do something special during the holidays. Lindsay, a generous committee member, offered to donate ornaments that we could use for our first annual tree-lighting ceremony. She recently lost her grandmother and she wanted to touch the lives of others in our community who are facing their first holiday season without a loved one, just like her. She delivered more than 100 handmade ornaments to my office.

My teenage daughter volunteered to personalize them as families requested them for memorials. My job was to add a tag with an inspirational word to each one. A simple task, yet I struggled with it.

As I held each one, I thought about the name on the ornament and about the family who is missing that person now. I fretted over choosing the best word for each one:  “Peace,” “Love,” “Joy," “Hope.” Which word would mean the most to this person? I hoped our efforts would ease a little of the heartache and bring some joy.

Like Lindsay and each of the people who requested a memorial ornament, my daughter and I have lost loved ones this year too. As I looked over the names I realized that whether we know each other or not, we are all sharing a common experience this season.

This activity of a few of us working together to create something special for others who are missing their loved ones brought a deeper meaning to the word “community.”

This was not my most productive work. As I came across names I knew, I paused longer, reflecting on their stories. I smiled as I thought about the fun family whose 103-year-old mother passed away earlier this year. They said the four days they spent together in hospice were some of the best days of her life.

Then there was the name of a child who died as an infant. Her mother has used this heartbreaking experience to become an incredibly empathetic hospice nurse.

My daughter held one ornament up and said, “Mom, this is my friend’s mom.” She carefully printed the name in her best handwriting. An hour later, “Oh, Mom, this is my friend from camp.” She showed me the name of our youngest patient this year who died at age 16. Then she lovingly tied a ribbon and selected the word she thought would be best.

I’m inspired by Lindsay’s gift to our community. I’m grateful that my daughter shared this experience with me. I did not recognize every name, but I do know that each of them, like us, has experienced love and loss. And because they have chosen to remember their loved ones with a donation that will help others, I also know that, like us, they value community.

“Community” is now my favorite inspirational word. I am blessed to be a part of this beautiful community with you.

--Angelia Neumann is the director of development and communications for the Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice.