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Why You Should Always Attend the Funeral… Even When It’s Uncomfortable

We often hear of someone that was unsure whether or not they should attend a funeral, or whether or not they were expected to attend. Today, we are sharing a story of a young woman who believes in always attending the funeral.  “Always Go to the Funeral” is a beautiful essay by Deirdre Sullivan about how her father taught her to go to funerals. She writes:

I believe in always going to the funeral. My father taught me that.

The first time he said it directly to me, I was 16 and trying to get out of going to calling hours for Miss Emerson, my old fifth grade math teacher. I did not want to go. My father was unequivocal. “Dee,” he said, “you’re going. Always go to the funeral. Do it for the family.”

So my dad waited outside while I went in. It was worse than I thought it would be: I was the only kid there. When the condolence line deposited me in front of Miss Emerson’s shell-shocked parents, I stammered out, “Sorry about all this,” and stalked away. But, for that deeply weird expression of sympathy delivered 20 years ago, Miss Emerson’s mother still remembers my name and always says hello with tearing eyes.

That was the first time I went un-chaperoned, but my parents had been taking us kids to funerals and calling hours as a matter of course for years. By the time I was 16, I had been to five or six funerals. I remember two things from the funeral circuit: bottomless dishes of free mints and my father saying on the ride home, “You can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.”

Sounds simple — when someone dies, get in your car and go to calling hours or the funeral. That, I can do. But I think a personal philosophy of going to funerals means more than that.

“Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.

In going to funerals, I’ve come to believe that while I wait to make a grand heroic gesture, I should just stick to the small inconveniences that let me share in life’s inevitable, occasional calamity.

On a cold April night three years ago, my father died a quiet death from cancer. His funeral was on a Wednesday, middle of the workweek. I had been numb for days when, for some reason, during the funeral, I turned and looked back at the folks in the church. The memory of it still takes my breath away. The most human, powerful and humbling thing I’ve ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believe in going to the funeral.

Deirdre Sullivan grew up in Syracuse, and traveled the world working odd jobs before attending law school at Northwestern University. She’s now a freelance attorney living in Brooklyn. Sullivan says her father’s greatest gift to her and her family was how he ushered them through the process of his death.

Dee has chosen to attend funerals, and has made it a part of her life, not allowing herself the option of not attending. We encourage our readers today to also consider making this part of your philosophy. For those in the depths of grief, few things mean more than being surrounded by people whose presence acknowledges the pain, gives comfort, and provides a powerfully important sense that they are not alone in all of this.

Perhaps we should all take Dee’s father’s advice, “You can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.”

February Caregiver Award Winner

Shalom Hospice Jolain GrafWe are honored to award our February 2013 Hospice Caregiver Award to Margaret Hapeman with Shalom Hospice.

Margaret was nominated by Jolain Graf, Chaplain & Assistant Director at Shalom Hospice.

“We enthusiastically recommend Margaret Hapeman for the Hospice Caregiver Award. Margaret tends to all her patients with heart, mind and soul. She goes the extra mile, paying attention to the small things that make patients happy. She has stopped to pick up a soft drink, hamburger or shake to share with one of her patients. Margaret also takes care of the staff in the facilities she serves. She bakes cookies for holidays and takes them out for a special treat. Margaret is clinically strong, a true patient advocate, supportive of the nurses who work with her, and shares her delightful sense of humor with all she meets.

Margaret works in the community.  She has Lowry Park where she cares for a lot of Medicaid folks.  Her heart is in caring for people who do not have anyone or who have special needs.  She has had several deaf patients and some who barely survive.  She is great with men who need someone to give them a “bad time” so they trust her.  She is fun!”, said Jolain in her nomination.

Congratulations Margaret.  Thank you for your caring devotion, joyful spirit and kindness to the community!

Hospice Caregiver Award Winner

We are pleased to announce our first Caregiver winner.  Each month we will select one Caregiver to honor based upon a review of nominations received from peers, friends, patients and their families, and others who feel a particular person excels in her or his profession. The monthly winner will receive a gift card that can be used for whatever the recipient decides and an award.

Congratulation to our January 2013 winner Leslie Abbott, a nurse with The Denver Hospice.

January 2013 winner Leslie Abbott, a nurse with The Denver Hospice.

Pictured: John Horan, President Horan & McConaty, Leslie Abbott, a nurse with The Denver Hospice, Judi Pring, Executive Director at Sunrise Senior Living at Pinehurst and Jennifer McBride, MA, FT, DM VP Horan & McConaty

Here are a few words from Judi Pring, Executive Director at Sunrise Senior Living at Pinehurst about why she nominated Leslie. “She is compassionate, knowledgeable and professional. When families are struggling with the dying process, Leslie has a way of putting them at ease through her presence and her vast knowledge. I really appreciate Leslie’s understanding of the Alzheimer’s disease process and the impacts of dementia on a person and on families. She is an expert with this population and understands the unspoken needs of these residents. She displays an extra measure of compassion to families as they deal with their struggles watching a loved one suffer from this disease. If I had to choose a hospice care provider for my own family, I would not hesitate in choosing Leslie. “, says Pring.

Thank you Leslie for all you do for patients and families, your fellow caregivers, and our community!

Watch for our next winner.

To nominate a caregiver go to www.sacred-transitions.com

Resources for Coping During This Difficult Time

With the events that occurred on Friday, we would like to offer some resources from the Association for Death Education and Counseling.

Resources for coping with traumatic loss and violence
Helping children in the aftermath of a shooting (APA)
Resources for talking to children after disasters (AAP)
Educational pamphlets about trauma (ISTSS)

Please also visit our library of grief  articles: http://www.horancares.com/_mgxroot/page_10747.php

If you are in need of support, please contact Jennifer McBride, Director of Grief Support & Community Education at jmcbride@horancares or 303-745-1771 x242.

Our hearts and prayers are with the community of Newtown, Connecticut.

Honoring Officer James Davies

On Thursday, we will be serving the family of Police Officer James Davies.

We are honoring Officer Davies’ dedication to protecting our community, and for dedicating his life to keeping us safe. He will always be remembered. Our hearts go out to all of his friends and family.

Today, we are sharing the thin blue line in his honor today. The Thin Blue Line is a symbol of support for law enforcement officers and is used among fellow officers. The blue represents officers and the courage they have when facing insurmountable odds. The black background is a constant reminder of all officers who have fallen. The line is what police officers protect; it’s the barrier between order and chaos. Together, they symbolize the camaraderie law enforcement officers all share, the brotherhood like no other. Today, please share this photo with the Thin Blue Line in honor of Police Officer James Davies. May he rest in peace.

Click here to read Officer Davies Obituary

Caregiver Event: Exploring Ten Touchstones for Caring for the Mourner

We are pleased to sponsor a caregiver event entitled Caregiver Event: Exploring Ten Touchstones for Caring for the Mourner. The speaker will be Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt.

This event will be held on November 16, 2012 from 9-3:30 at the Horan & McConaty Centennial location (5303 E. County Line Rd., at Holly Street). It includes lunch and a certificate of participation. There is a $35 fee to attend this event.

Please view or download the flyer below for more information.

Top 10 Things You Can Do to Detect Breast Cancer Early and Help Lower Your Risk

Today, we are sharing all ten things you can do to detect breast cancer early and help lower your risk.

1. Get screened. Ask your doctor which screening tests are right for you if you are at higher risk. Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk. Have a clinical breast exam at least every 3 years starting at 20, and every year starting at 40.

2. Find out whether you or women close to you have dense breasts. Extra tissue can prevent early diagnosis of breast cancer.

3. Ask your doctor to recommend other tests using ultrasounds and MRIs to detect breast tumors that may not show up on mammograms.

4. Know your body mass index (BMI) — and lower it if necessary. Studies show that women whose body mass index (BMI) is at the lower end of the scale for their height lower their risk of breast cancer.

5. Get 30 minutes of exercise daily.

6. Limit alcohol to one drink a day — or save it for special occasions. More than one drink a day is associated with a significant increase in breast cancer risk, and teetotalers have the lowest risk of all.

7. Eat those fruits and veggies. Lots of them.

8. Quit smoking.

9. Don’t take hormones, or limit how long you take them.

10. If you have kids, breast feeding for at least one year over all pregnancies lowers breast cancer risk

“Early detection is key, and it’s such an easy thing to do now,” Andrea Horan emphasizes. “People really need to take time in their year to [get screened], because the earlier you catch breast cancer, the better. It’s more treatable and curable when you catch it early.”

Live Well. Leave Well. Radio Spots

If you’ve missed our radio spots further discussing the “Live Well. Leave Well.” theme, we’ve added them here to share them with you.

Radio Spot 1:

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Radio Spot 2:

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Radio Spot 3:

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Radio Spot 4:

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Radio Spot 5:

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Living To 100 and Beyond

We recently learned of Besse Cooper, the oldest person to ever live, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Besse turned 116 years old during August 2012.

Besse was born the year that Utah became admitted as a state (the 45th state), and the year the first Olympics were held.It’s astonishing to realize the advances that took place in her life time. When she was a child, it was very different from today. Actually, in her early teens, the first zipper was used in clothing.

What we found rather amazing about Besse (beyond the fact that she’s lived to be 116), is her secret to longevity. Besse stated, “I mind my own business, and I don’t eat junk food.”

There has been research done on Centenarians (people that live to be over 100 years old), and the results showed that there are six factors that Centenarians have in common, they:

  • tend to focus on the positives (complain less)
  • continue learning and challenging their mind
  • love life (very optimistic)
  • are more satisfied with their financials
  • live life to the fullest
  • have healthy habits (less salt/sugar, more exercise and good oral hygiene).

There is much we can learn from Besse and the research that has shown the common factors of Centenarians. How do you plan on applying these common factors? How will you live life to the fullest?

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you want to live to be 100? Why/Why not? If so, what are your plans to do today, tomorrow and the rest of your life to live to be 100?

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