A Broken Heart Deserves a Tender Touch... "Over 30 years ago, I walked across an ordinary parking lot, up an ordinary sidewalk and opened the amber colored glass doors of an ordinary, one-story office building in Tyler Texas. I paused in front of an ordinary door; it was the home office for the Hospice of East Texas. As soon as I walked into that office, I discovered a group of people who were anything but ordinary. People who were willing to share compassion and care with folks who deserved extraordinary attention at a very special time of life. Walking into that office changed my life.
A new program called “Wings” was about to be introduced, and they were looking for volunteers. The program was specifically designed to help support/educate children ages 6-12 who were grieving the loss of someone they loved. The prospect of helping hurting children tugged at my heart. I said, “yes”.
After weeks of training and planning, we held our first “Wings” support group. Empty offices were turned into “classrooms” with tables covered with crayons, craft supplies, clay and construction paper. I watched as the children arrived. Some shyly shuffled into the room clinging to a caregiver, while others fairly bounced into the room full of energy and excitement. As the time passed by, stories began to be told: Stories about a daddy who was “in heaven”; a grandpa that was being missed “a whole bunch”; A baby brother who was “gone”.
For five weeks they came, every Tuesday evening. Family pictures were drawn depicting fun times and sad times. Clay was molded into little shapes that represented feelings. Faces sketched on paper plates helped identify emotions. Simple games were played that connected the children to the complex concept of grief.
The kids continued to talk, I did my best to listen. They needed permission to experience their loss and grieve in their own individual, child-like way. My reason for being there was to make sure they had a safe place to mourn. As I sat with those hurting children, my Hospice of East Texas volunteer badge clipped to my shirt, I realized something very important: A broken heart deserves a tender touch.
In 40 years, the Hospice of East Texas has seen its fair share of change. Its physical address has changed more than once. Staff have changed; volunteers have changed; the names of patients have changed; the names of family members and care-givers have changed. However, one thing remains the same today as it was in the beginning: The unselfish willingness to share compassion and care with people who are living through a very special time of life.
Today, I count it an honor to continue my connection with the Hospice of East Texas, serving as Care Support Consultant with special emphasis on bereavement support and education. The extraordinary people I work with are people who continue to embrace the importance of that “something” I realized so long ago: A broken heart deserves a tender touch."