Hospice Cottage Closing Ceremony
Friday, August 18, 2023
Each of you is here because you have some connection to this special place. We have former staff members, volunteers, board members, benefactors, and family members of patients cared for here. And the beloved spirit of this special place is captured in such raw & poignant form in the journals in the Chapel. As I prepared for this ceremony, I had the privilege of reading years & years of entries from family members of patients – some prayers, some pleas, some promises, some favorite memories shared; pictures drawn, apologies made, thank you’s, & goodbyes. I wish I could share them all. But let these few appreciations of this place & its people reflect the sentiments of all the others:
“We are so grateful she could be comfortable and that we could all be together as a family in her final days.”
“What a beautiful, restful, peaceful place. The staff is warm, loving, careful & caring. Thank God this is the last place my Dad laid his head on earth. May the Lord bless & keep all of you.”
“On behalf of my family, we would like to thank all the staff for their love, empathy, compassion and guidance. You touched all of us and we are so grateful for all of the kind compassion and love you gave us. We will never forget & are so grateful.”
It is an impossible task to summarize what this place means, all that has happened here. It was a thousand points of light that brightened these halls & warmed the patients & families; it was pain medicine & comfort food; it was medical consultations and patient listening; it was the muted energy of families gathering from far & wide and piano music filling these halls; it was laughter from memories recalled and tearful goodbyes; it was a cold washcloth, a hand held. It was all of these things and more. And I’m reminded of an encounter I had a number of years ago as a hospital chaplain that brings me as close I can to summing it up:
He had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye as I entered the room and introduced myself. Mr. Cook was preparing for surgery that he hoped would give him a new lease on life so I encountered him in a reflective state of mind. He confessed that he was a former pastor who had “given up a great church and left the ministry many years ago to tend to an ailing parent.”
Through the years he had continued to reflect on his pastoral experiences and now they seemed to provide a sense of purpose for his upcoming surgery. “I’m not sure I’ve done much with my life these last few years. It’s mostly been about me. This may sound strange but only after it all did I realize what a privilege it was to share the darkest and most challenging times with people. I guess I really didn’t do much. I would just show up – and listen…and, you know, stand in the gap with ‘em. I think I’d like to do that again.”
Standing in the gap is a great way to describe most of what was done here at the Hospice Cottage. As clinical professionals, you stood in the gap between pain and comfort. As behind-the-scenes support staff, you stood in the gap between frustration and peace of mind. As volunteers, you stood in the gap between loneliness and comfort. As a donor, you stood in the gap between a stressful ICU and a peaceful home-like cottage for care. As an artist, you stood in the gap between a sterile setting and a place of beauty. Regardless of your role, you stood in the gaps between isolation & community, shock & acceptance, hopelessness & meaning.
It takes real courage to enter these uncomfortable in-between spaces with patients, their families, and our colleagues but as we do, we come to realize that holistic healing – and certainly death with dignity – requires more than medical expertise – it requires compassion, an open heart, and generous listening. The simplest of gestures – just being there and being you – can make a difference, maybe even be enough. I hope you find it reassuring to know that while your expertise may be what helps mitigate pain, it is your presence, your willingness to stand and serve in the gap that reduces suffering.
And so here we are at a closing ceremony for this place that has been a gap-filler. While hospice care will continue to be provided at home & in other settings around our community by many dedicated organizations, this place has served its final hospice patient. There is much to be proud of. The world needs more quiet, more listening, more simple acts of kindness, more generosity, more intimate conversations. And this place has delivered with leaps & bounds. And so we have much to look forward to as well. The legacy of what each of you – and the thousands of others impacted by this place – made possible, lives on.
It will live on as this building is sold & repurposed to serve our community in another caring & desperately needed way. We’ll be sharing more details in the weeks to come.
It will live on as Bridges of Hope, the non-profit for whom I now serve as executive director, that brought hospice care to this community more than 40 years ago as Hospice of Charleston, that built, operated, and then leased this building first to Gentiva/Kindred, most recently to Roper St. Francis. Bridges of Hope, fueled by the spirit of this place and the proceeds of its sale, will continue this building’s legacy of compassionate care by expanding our grief support services for children, teens & families in the Tri-County Region. And we hope that many of you will stay engaged with us as we help the youth in our community learn, connect, heal & grow after the death of someone significant in their life.
Finally, it lives on in each & every one of you. What made this place special from the very beginning and throughout its 17 years of service was the people. Those pages in the chapel were filled with appreciation for the people of this place. This place & its purpose called us to be at our best, and each of you, and so many others stepped up to the challenge. And so each of us can carry the generous, compassionate spirit of this place with us. Just as the memory of our loved ones inspires us to “be & be better,” so the memories of this special place can inspire us to create safe, affirming spaces in our lives, our communities, our world.
So, our closing charge is this: No matter where you find yourself, find ways to stand in the gaps for others; for family, for friends, for total strangers. Every healthcare setting needs beauty and simple acts of kindness; every caregiving encounter needs gentleness; every relationship needs more patience & less judgment. Because we all find ourselves living in the gaps at some point; let us stand in the gap whenever & for whomever we are able. May it be so.
These remarks from the Hospice Cottage Closing Ceremony are from Jonathan Wright, the Executive Director for Bridges of Hope