Written by: Leah Laing, Peaceful Transition Team
No one should die alone… Peaceful Transitions is a ministry within Catholic Community Hospice that is implemented when our medical team evaluates and decides that the patient’s condition is declining rapidly and is close to the end of their journey here on earth.
Peaceful Transitions offers someone to bedside support for 24/day if needed. Some families decline this service and that is okay. Our main objective is to support our patient and their family’s individual needs when they need it most.
In 1856 when Johannes Brahms was at the young age of 23, he wrote one of the most beautiful sacred choral works. Brahms took one of Paul Fleming’s poems/prayers from the 1600’s and brought what is known today as “Geistliches lied,” translated in English to “Sacred Song”. Two men who never knew each other, were led by the Holy Spirit, 200 years apart. To me, this is the musical equivalent in how the Holy Spirit uses each of our gifts, all beautiful in God’s eyes, for the greater good of his providence. When I think of Catholic Community Hospice, I am reminded of how each one of us working together, in so many different capacities, makes up the Body of Christ.
To understand more in depth, this is my personal witness to this ministry that is so dear and beautiful to my heart. One of the most moving moments for me was with one patient in particular. As I helped him get ready for the day, he needed a towel. I went to his closet and shortly returned with a beautiful and brightly colored beach towel.
“Oh, can you please use something else,” he asked humbly?
“Of course,” I said , and went back to search for a different one.
With a different one this time, I could tell this Vietnam vet was holding back tears.
“I’m sorry about that,” he said.
“You have absolutely nothing to apologize for,” I promised him.
“That towel is special to you and that is okay,” I said.
He told me that years ago, he had gone out for a walk by himself and had fallen on the sidewalk. Needing medical attention, without a phone, he could do nothing but wait for someone to see him. Around the corner, a woman approached him with this beautiful beach towel and wrapped him in it and stayed with him until help arrived. When they put him in the ambulance, she told him he could keep the towel.
“I only use this towel as a blanket and not for drying off,” he explained.
This man had served in the war, was unable to have children due to his exposure to agent orange, had lost two wives to cancer and had only one sister, a nun, who lived up north. With no one in town to care for him, I told Jesus that he was my family now.
A few weeks before he passed away, he had lost the ability to feed himself. In the process of transferring him into a new facility that could accommodate his needs, I was allowed go up and eat lunch with him each day. One time in particular, as he took a bite of yogurt, our music therapist at the time had arrived and asked what his favorite song was. She began playing and singing this beautiful song. She looked over at me and I looked at her, both of us moved to tears. When we left, we talked about how the Holy Spirit had orchestrated all of this. In true Holy Spirit fashion, it was an elaborate blessing for all of us. Glory be to God!
In the last few days of his life, he was placed on our most beautiful ministry, “Peaceful Transitions,” I was so very honored to care for him. As he slept and Our Lord prepared his soul for Heaven, I took the towel that was so dear to his heart and placed it over him while praying the Divine Chaplet.
I know that we cannot assume, but I am confident within my heart, that with the sacraments he was able to receive, along with God’s infinite mercy, Heaven gained a Saint.
The day that he had passed away, I went into the Adoration chapel and prayed and thanked Jesus for this patient’s witness and humility. As I sat there, I closed my eyes and saw Saint Veronica, wiping our Lord’s blood, sweat and tears upon her veil, in an effort to comfort Him during his darkest day. I wonder if that unnamed Saint Veronica who humbly gave her towel to a total stranger in need, had any idea of what an impact her generosity had on him?
The concept of “Peaceful Transitions” is nothing new to hospice. Out of 80 hospice companies in Kansas City, I am not sure of how many of those offer this service. I can tell you that we are the only faith-based organization out of them all. Our Chaplains, Deacon Joe Allen and Deacon Jim Lavin, also work for the Archdiocese of Kansas City and are formed in walking with people through their individual Spiritual journey home. I am so grateful to be able to sit bedside in Peaceful Transitions and have the freedom of praying for each patient.
No, I am not a chaplain, but I am a converted and beloved daughter of our Lord, a wife, a mother to 11 (5 in heaven) and a part of the dynamic Body of Christ that not only makes up our Catholic Church, but serves our mission at Catholic Community Hospice.
Catholic Community Hospice’s “Peaceful Transitions” is a ministry built upon the foundation of the Lord. We are all moving parts in one great and beautiful song. Not one of us more important that the other, rather, we compliment the one sole purpose and the very essence of God’s providence. If I could sum up peaceful transitions in one simple and powerful word, it would be the last and most moving part of this song. The last word, “Amen,” is held for almost a minute and a half. We bring glory to God all through someone’s journey home, but during Peaceful Transitions, it is not only a time to mourn it is a time to say Amen! Glory be to God!
“We shouldn’t try to care by ourselves. Care is not an endurance test. We should, whenever possible, care together with others. It is the community of care that reminds the dying person of his or her belovedness.” Henri Nouwen