Our First Celebration!

“Celebration is about bringing our mission home,” said Debbie Robson, Executive Director of Hospice Care of the West, as she welcomed her team of more than 100 strong to the first Celebration in Anaheim. View the video montage that really echoes our mission of celebrating the lives of our patients and each other.  Together, we conceived a gathering of the entire hospice team to come join to reflect, renew and recharge.

We invited the Hospice Care of the West team to our first Celebration with the invitation below. The Celebration very much mirrored my Parting Ways book launch with a call to ceremony that began with each person lighting a candle in remembrance of a patient or a loved one.  Debbie and I both welcomed the team of more than 100 to our first Celebration! I asked each person to turn around and greet others around them.  Then I shared that these Celebrations occurring once every two months would unite us all to learn more about each other and celebrate life together just as we do for our patients.  So, for example I said, right now you may not know too much about the person you work with besides that she is a good social worker, but after this Celebration you will learn about what inspired her calling to hospice care and life experiences that gave her the wisdom she would like to pass on to her children.

The invitation to the first Celebration! for Hospice Care of the West.

Our mission grew out of the life review video program at Hospice Care of the West and the research for my book Parting Ways: New Rituals and Celebrations of Life’s Passing. We video record the life stories of our patients in an interview edited with pictures and music in a life review video or a legacy of memories to the family. The life review video is given as a gift to pass on the wisdom to the next generation so the patient knows how he or she will live on in the hearts and minds of their loved ones. In the same regard at Hospice Care of the West we started Reminiscing Corners to video record the wisdom of our hospice care team so that not only are we celebrating and recording the lives our patients we are also celebrating and recording the lives of our hospice team.  See the video of some of a Reminiscing Corner with our social workers. We played this at the Celebration!

After the Reminiscing Corner, we opened the microphone for what I call a living eulogy to celebrate the life of someone still with us in the same light as we would at their memorial service, because I believe we shouldn’t wait until someone is dying or has already passed on to honor their life. I read a story right from our blog OurLifeCelebrations.com about Nancy Johnson, our volunteer who gives hospice patients a last hair cut and style. You can read her life story here. Then I opened the microphone to our team and one by one they stood and spotlighted and honored each other. It was a remarkable! I’m so proud of each person who shined in the spotlight and those who had the courage to stand and celebrate their colleagues. The ceremony ended with a reading from our Dave Boyle, our Spiritual Care Coordinator, followed by the montage.

After the ceremony in a little room off the main Celebration event, Jay Gianukos, our life story documentary filmmaker who heads up the Life Review Program at Hospice Care of the West, set up a Reminiscing Corner with a video camera, lights and he interviewed some of our nurses to be spotlighted and celebrated at our next Celebration!

Our first Celebration was emotional, reflective and I think one of our doctors said it best when we asked him what did you think of the Celebration! I have one word he said, “Inspiring.”

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