2021 - March - Gazette - Leaning into Sorrow
Leaning into Sorrow
I will never forget the time I was chatting with a group of people around a hi-top table at an evening fundraiser and was asked about my work. I explained that I work with Koch Funeral Home and companion people around death. A silence ensued. One by one the group started to disperse until I was the only one left standing there.
I get it. Many people don’t like to talk about dying, death and grief. These topics feel sad and depressing to them. The more I do this work, however, the more I realize it is just the opposite. I feel so incredibly fortunate to spend time with people who are paying attention to what matters most and sharing such incredible stories. Love, light and life are ever present. Now don’t get me wrong, darkness, grief, fear and despair are there too, but only because of the love. And this love is what helps the healing.
I am often in awe of the love I witness as people lean into their sorrow. I have a friend, a widower, who chose to donate his wife’s organs after she was declared brain dead from an aneurysm. For him organ donation wasn’t a choice; he knew that was what his wife wanted. Within hours, he went from waking up with his beloved spouse on a normal day to signing papers allowing Gift of Life to send transplant surgeons to the Pennsylvania trauma center where she was on life support. He and the rest of his family leaned into their sorrow and gave the gift of life to others – what love!
The love didn’t stop there. Gift of Life sent my friend a letter recognizing his strength and courage as a tribute to himself and his wife’s memory. Without providing specifics, they also shared information about the outcome of her gifts. The recipient of her liver was a man in his fifties. The recipient of her right kidney was a woman in her sixties and those of her left kidney and lungs were women in their fifties. The letter went on to describe the fifty or more patients who would benefit from her bones, skin and corneas. With this information, my friend wrote a letter to the organ recipients telling them a little about the very special lady who would be happy to know she made their lives better. One recipient even replied. Again, what love!
This love that allowed my friend to lean into his sorrow and share his wife also helped him begin to heal by knowing she lives on in his and his family’s hearts and in the donor recipients. Yes, this is a story of loss, but it’s also a story of love.
Love and loss, grief and gratitude – they’re two sides of the same coins. Much of my work is about providing safe spaces for people to be present to both sides. To that end, we invite you to join the upcoming Thankful, Thoughtful Tuesday series by attending to issues surrounding end of life.
This series of classes was conceived by Sandy Schuckers with the Centre County Office of Aging, Holly Reigh with A Ray of Care, and me. In the past it has been held at the Bellefonte Senior Resource Center, the Active Adult Center, retirement communities and other locations around Centre County. This time we are offering it virtually. It will be held on Tuesdays, April 6 through May 11, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. I will facilitate these gatherings and guest speakers will include: Faith Lucchesi, an attorney with DeBoef Lucchesi; Holly Reigh, founder of A Ray of Care; and, F. Glenn Fleming, a funeral director and supervisor with Koch Funeral Home. We’ll discuss topics such as, appropriate legal documents, hospice and what happens as we die, companioning yourself and others through grief, instructions to the funeral director, and Have the Talk of a Lifetime. You’re encouraged but not required to attend all sessions. Please RSVP by Monday before the class.
In addition, in partnership with Centre Region Parks and Recreations, we invite you to A Walk With Grief. A Walk With Grief is not an exercise program but instead a time of coming together with others who are grieving a loss and...walking. The six sessions will be held at different parks in our community. Participants are required to bring a mask. If you choose to walk and talk, you are required to wear your mask. If you choose to walk in silence, we will ask you to put on your mask when the group stops and gathers together. These walks will be held, Tuesdays, April 20 through May 25 from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. for ages 18 and over with fees of $12 for residents and $18 for non-residents. Please register by April 15.
Other upcoming gatherings include:
- Monday’s Moments Virtual Gathering for Those Who Have Lost a Loved One on April 5 and May 3 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. – These are educational and support gatherings where we come together, learn a little about the grief journey, support one another and see that we are not alone.
- Virtual Death Café on Mondays, April 19 and May 17 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. – This is a time to talk about death in order to live fully now. We have no themes or agendas and discuss topics generated by the group. The Death Café is not a grief support or counseling session.
For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-404-0546 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.
Jackie Naginey 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.