2019 - Oct - Gazette - Time for Family, Time for Talk
Time for Family Time for Talk
When I was growing up, I looked forward to Halloween. Of course the excitement of costumes and candy was part of it. But another big piece was my mom’s embrace of the festivities. My mother had a “proper” New England upbringing, lived and traveled around the world with her family, and completed college at a “top-tier” school. She has a huge heart and a real love for her family and children. And although she does not like to attract attention, Halloween brought out another side of her.
Each Halloween she dressed in a black, long-sleeved, high-neck top, and a floor-length skirt that belonged to my father’s great-aunt. She donned a witch's mask, hair and hat. To top things off, she took the huge black pot my father’s family used to make apple butter, put dry-ice in it and positioned it inside the front door. Under the pot were fake birch logs from my great-grandparent’s home. Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” played continuously on the stereo and my older sister’s black cat wandered about.
When trick-or-treaters rang our doorbell, my mom opened the door, spoke to them in a witch’s cackle, and offered them a bowl of candy she’d lift out of the pot with billowing, dry-ice smoke. If my mom ever thought a child was even slightly scared, she immediately removed her mask and showed them who she was. The show wasn’t about scaring people; it was about entertaining them and making them happy. My mom has a gift for making people happy throughout the year, and at Halloween, she did it in a manner atypical for her.
Some years my younger brother added to the scene by carving a pumpkin, cutting a hole in the bottom, and placing it on his head. Then he put on a long trench coat and sat motionless on the front porch. The curious trick-or-treaters would look at him and try to decide if he was real or not.
This was all at a time before there were as many exterior Halloween decorations as there are today - our house became the talk of the neighborhood. And our neighbors have not forgotten. A couple weeks ago, I went with my mom for her doctor’s visit. The doctor had been a neighbor during those Halloween’s long ago, and out of the blue he mentioned her dressing as a witch. Our family has not forgotten either. Although none of my four siblings or I have attempted such a level of Halloween entertainment, we’ve all shared these memories with our children.
As we enter the time of year when various holidays bring us together with family and friends, it’s Time for Family, Time for Talk. We invite you to engage in meaningful conversations where you share memories and stories like this Halloween one. The feedback I receive from people who have these conversations is very positive – they have fun and learn new things. In addition, studies show that hearing family stories helps make children more resilient.
To help you have these conversations, you can take part in Have the Talk of a Lifetime, a national campaign to learn unique stories about the people who matter most to you. At different programs, I provide a Have the Talk of a Lifetime deck of cards with 50 questions like: “What made you laugh so hard you cried?” “Is there a story friends and family always tell about you?” and “What is the best/worst/most thoughtful gift you’ve ever received?” This year we’ve included two new small decks of cards, one about celebrations and one for children. I know people who’ve used these cards on long car drives, around the Thanksgiving dinner table and when meeting a daughter’s new boyfriend. Please contact me if you would like to schedule a program about Have the Talk of a Lifetime for your group or organization. You can also visit the Koch Funeral Home website and click on Have the Talk of a Lifetime to download the holiday guide and other resources.
While some of you might be looking forward to gathering with family and friends to have these kinds of conversations, others might be dreading the holidays because you’re missing a loved one. To help you gain support and ideas about how to handle holiday challenges, I’m joining with Brenda Oyler Kim, MSW, LCSW and Meghan McGraw, RN and master’s candidate in counselor education, both with Juniper Village, to offer Healing through the Holidays. For five Mondays from November 18 through December 16 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at The Inn at Juniper Village, we will offer an education and support/discussion group open to the public with time to talk, share, and learn about how to cope with what can be difficult times. To RSVP by November 13, please call Brenda at 814-235-2010.
If you experienced pregnancy loss, stillbirth or infant death, you are welcome to join the HEART – Helping Empty Arms Recover Together Grief and Loss Support Program. This six-night series will be facilitated by Jenn Stubbs, a former group participant, and me and held at TIDES meetings from 6 to 7:45 p.m. at Mount Nittany Middle School beginning Thursday, November 7. Call TIDES to register at 814-692-2233.
You are also invited to the following gatherings:
- Monday’s Moments Complimentary Luncheon – “Learn to Listen,” Monday, November 4 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College. Email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-404-0546 or sign up on the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page to RSVP by Thursday, September 5th.
- Death Café, the third of Monday of the month, November 18 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Webster’s Bookstore Café, 133 East Beaver Avenue, State College with Complimentary Desserts Provided by Webster’s.
For more information about these programs, please visit Koch Funeral Home website’s Bereavement Gatherings and Events section under the Local Resources tab. All of these events are open to the public and space is limited. We wish you support and meaningful conversations.
Jackie Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.